To celebrate the installation of the Toto memorial marker at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on June 18, here is the story of Toto’s creator and his life in Hollywood.
By Allan R. Ellenberger
L. Frank Baum, the author of numerous children’s classics including “The Wizard of Oz,” left his impression on the world – in particular the literary and film world. Few people know that Baum spent the last nine years of his life living in Hollywood and was one of its earliest residents.
At his home located at 1749 N. Cherokee Avenue (at the corner of Yucca), which he christened “Ozcot,” Baum wrote many of his best loved “Oz” books, including “The Emerald City of Oz” (1910), “The Patchwork Girl of Oz” (1913), “The Lost Princess of Oz” (1917) and many more.
Lyman Frank Baum was born in Chittenango, New York on May 15, 1856. After his graduation at the Syracuse Academy he began newspaper work in 1880. Two years later he married Maud Gage of Fayetteville, New York. Baum was the editor of the Dakota Pioneer of Aberdeen, South Dakota from 1888 to 1890 and the Chicago Show Window, from 1897 to 1902. During that time he began writing books and plays. His first effort was “Mother Goose in Prose,” which was published in 1897.
Baum next decided to join forces on a children’s book with a friend, the artist W. W. Denslow. “Father Goose, His Book,” published in 1899, was a best-seller. One of the five books he published in 1900, also based on stories he had told his sons and illustrated by Denslow, was “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” which instantly broke records for sales and made Baum a celebrity.
More Oz books followed and over the next two decades he wrote over 35 non-Oz books under various pseudonyms aimed at various audiences. Always looking for new channels for his creativity, Baum became interested in films. In 1909 he founded a company to produce hand-colored slides featuring characters from his Oz books. These were shown while he narrated and an orchestra played background music.
Frank Baum and his wife lived here at 2322 Toberman Street with their son Frank, when they first moved to Los Angeles in January 1910 (NOTE: This is a private residence, please do not disturb the residents)
With his health failing, Baum and his wife came to California in January 1910 to create his own fairyland. At the time, their son Frank had been living in Los Angeles at 2322 Toberman Street for more than two years. The Baum’s lived with their son for a while before obtaining an apartment on Park Grove Avenue near downtown Los Angeles.
Looking for their own residence, Baum found the sparsely settled village called Hollywood, which at the time was mostly citrus groves. He immediately bought the plot of ground on which he built a two-story frame house that he named “Ozcot.” In 1910, the street was known as Magnolia but was renamed Cherokee two years later.
On the second floor he had a long enclosed porch with a view of the distant mountains, and downstairs at one end a large sunroom where he grew flowers. He built a large bird cage, big enough for a zoo, and there kept hundreds of rare and exotic song birds. In his garden he planted roses, dahlias and chrysanthemums. Before long he was recognized as a champion amateur horticulturist in Southern California.
Baum had traveled the world but developed a great affection for his new home: “Travels through Sicily, Italy, or a winter on the Upper Nile, all have their attractions but from what I have learned by actual experience, none of these countries compares with Southern California. There is a charm in the very atmosphere, an indefinable something which attracts and holds,” Baum once said.
At the time of his move to Hollywood, he was working on what he hoped would be the last “Oz” book, “The Emerald City of Oz.” Baum continued to turn out children’s stories at an amazing rate. To avoid flooding the market with books under his own name, he did one series after another, for both boys and girls, under pen names – Floyd Akers, Edith Van Dyne, Captain Hugh Fitzgerald, Laura Bancroft, Suzanne Metcalf and Schuyler Stanton.
Baum’s arrival in Hollywood, just a year before the advent of motion pictures, made it inevitable that he would be drawn into the fledgling industry. An earlier attempt at filmmaking in Chicago lost him a great deal of money, and in June 1911 he was forced to declare bankruptcy. However, with royalties coming in from his books, he was by no means a charity case. A later venture into the film business, the Oz Film Company in 1914, produced six movies but experienced severe distribution problems and also failed, though not as disastrously.
The Oz Film Mfg Co. located at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Lodi
The site as it looks today, only one blocks from Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Baum and his wife Maud lived quietly at Ozcot, gardening, writing stories, and answering the hundreds of letters he received from Oz-struck children. In February of 1918, Baum took ill at Ozcot and was admitted to Angelus Hospital where he was operated on. Maud blamed the illness on the hard work of his newest novel, “The Tin Woodman of Oz,” which was due to be published in the fall.
Baum, left immobile due to the illness, was restricted to minor tasks throughout the day. The pressure and strain contributed to attacks of angina pectoris, as well as unpredictable, gall bladder problems, and excruciating sharp pain jabs across his face.
After a 24-hour coma, L. Frank Baum died at Ozcot at 7 p.m. on May 6, 1919, supposedly uttering “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands” just a minute before expiring. Baum was survived by his wife Maud and four sons, Frank, Robert, Harry and Kenneth.
Funeral services for Baum were held at the Little Church of the Flowers in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale. Rev. E. P. Ryland, who was a close friend of the author, officiated and during his remarks said of Baum: “He was a man who knew the heart of a child, and was a friend of men.”
A quartet from the Uplifters’ Club of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, of which Baum was an organizer, sang several selections including, “Eternity,” with Harold Proctor as soloist. The authors’ oldest son, Captain Frank J. Baum was in France at the time serving in World War I.
Two of Baum’s works, “The Magic of Oz” (1919) and “Glinda of Oz” (1920) were both published posthumously.
Maud Gage Baum continued to live at Ozcot and died there on March 6, 1953. She had been confined to bed the greater part of the last four years of her life after suffering a broken hip in a fall. She was 91.
Ozcot was razed in the late 1950s and a non-descript apartment building was built in its place. It’s doubtful that the current residents are aware of the literary history that occurred on this site.
Ozcot (top) as it appeared in Baum’s life time. Bottom is the site as it looks today.
NOTE: On August 15, 1939, The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland, premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theater – only 3 blocks from Ozcot.