L. Frank Baum is one of the most fondly remembered of all children's book authors, for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the entire Land of Oz as depicted in a dozen subsequent books. He was also one of the most successful authors of children's books of his era, and among the very first in America to bring his own works to the screen; indeed, he worked as a screenwriter, director, and producer, and founded his own movie studio -- all activities growing directly out of the popularity of his early Oz books. Born in Chittenango, NY, in 1856, Lyman Frank Baum was the son of Benjamin Ward Baum, a wealthy speculator in oil, and the former Cynthia Stanton. A sickly child with a congenitally weak constitution, he was educated at home, and whatever allure formal learning might have held was banished by a two-year stay at the Peekskill Military Academy that ended with him suffering a heart attack in 1870, at age 14. Baum spent his teens writing a family newspaper and journals on stamp collecting and the breeding of exotic chickens. He did some acting in New York in the 1880s and, with his family's backing, produced his own play, The Maid of Arran.
Baum became a children's book author by accident. His wife's mother asked him to write explanations of the nursery rhymes that he'd devised for his children. Those tales were published in 1897 as Mother Goose in Prose. He followed it two years later with Father Goose: His Book. When the elaborately devised volume proved too daunting a risk for any publisher, the author and illustrator together paid for the printing and enjoyed a bestseller. In 1900, Baum and Denslow published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It was so popular, that Baum was able to give up his other activities. Over the ensuing ten years, he wrote many dozens of further children's books, authored under a multitude of male and female pseudonyms, but it was the Oz books that immortalized him.