When L. Frank Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, he was 44 years old and had spent much of his life in restless pursuit of his American dream. After working and failing at a string of odd jobs that honed his instincts for showmanship — chicken breeder, actor, marketer of petroleum products, shopkeeper, newspaperman and traveling salesman — Baum and his family headed west from their home in Syracuse, New York, in 1888. During his travels from Chicago to the Great Plains during the American frontier’s final days, he witnessed a nation coming to terms with the economic uncertainty of the Gilded Age. But he never lost his childlike sense of wonder and eventually crafted his observations into an enduring, magical tale of survival, adventure and self-discovery. American Oz tells the remarkable story of the man behind one of the most beloved and quintessential American classics, reinterpreted through the generations in films, books and musicals.
American Experience – American Oz airs on Monday, April 19, 2021 at 9:00 pm on WSKG-HD.