Cyclone on the Prairies: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the Arts & Crafts of Publishing in Chicago, 1900

Thursday, March 22, 2012
4:00 pm PDT

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

—a lecture by Peter E. Hanff, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Co-sponsored by the Book Club of California


The presentation will focus on the influence of the Arts & Crafts movement on printing and publishing in Chicago in the 1890s. The impact of William Morris and his Kelmscott Press in London was international in scope. Recognition of the pleasure and beauty of carefully designed and executed printing spread initially in and around London, but printers, designers, and collectors in North America were quickly caught up in the movement.

Chicago in the 1890s, rebuilding itself from the Great Fire of 1871, understood that it was experiencing a major renaissance. Writers, architects, and artists arrived in abundance, many involved in the development of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. As the major railhead for United States transportation, Chicago positioned itself as the center of national transport and commerce. While New York City remained the publishing center of North America, Chicago developed a strong commercial publishing scene focused on commercial art and publishing.

Into this environment moved L. Frank Baum and William Wallace Denslow, both with backgrounds in journalism. In 1899 the two men brought out an innovative, color-illustrated children’s book of nonsense verse, Father Goose: His Book, which became the best-selling children’s book of 1899. With that success, they moved forward rapidly to create their next collaboration, a far more elaborate venture published in 1900: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Peter E. Hanff’s presentation will encompass many of the elements that came together in Chicago in the 1890s to make possible what became America’s most popular book for children.

Hanff has written and lectured on the Arts and Crafts publishing movement, Way & Williams of Chicago, L. Frank Baum, and aspects of the collections of the Bancroft Library, which is older than the University of California. The Book Club of California commissioned his book, Cyclone on the Prairies, which was published on 28 June 28 2011. His text reflects a lifelong passion for book collecting and the study of books produced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

He serves as Deputy Director at the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the Roxburghe Club of San Francisco, the Colophon Club of San Francisco, the Book Club of California, and the Grolier Club of New York, the Bibliographical Society of America, and the American Printing History Association. He has served as president of the Book Club of California, the American Printing History Association, and as chair of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries.