Lyman Frank Baum was born on May 15, 1856 to a well-to-do family near Syracuse, New York. Although young Frank (he hated being called Lyman) had nothing to worry about financially, he wasn’t blessed with the best of health. Born with a weak heart, he was often absent from school, and eventually he was educated at home. Although he was a pleasant, upbeat child, his circumstances naturally inclined him to reading, writing, and solitary hobbies like stamp collecting. However, his many siblings (nine altogether!) made sure that he didn’t spend too much time alone.
For some reason, young Frank developed a keen interest in chickens, and he spent a lot of time hanging around the chicken coop on his parents’ estate. After an attempt to tough out military school failed badly, he got serious about chicken breeding and became something of an expert on the Hamburg variety (he would later write a book about it). He also kept writing. He and his brother Harry regularly published a family newspaper that they wrote, edited, and printed themselves on a small, inexpensive printing press their father had bought them to encourage their literary inclinations.
As he grew older, Frank began to see writing as a gateway into the theater world. He had always written poetry and plays, and he wondered if he could parlay these skills into a career as a playwright and actor. During a stint in his early 20s when he was managing a local theater, he put on one of his own plays, The Maid of Arran, which he also starred in. The play proved to be enough of a hit that the company Frank put together was able to tour with it after its initial run. His life in the theater met a premature end, unfortunately, when a theater fire destroyed all of the show’s costumes, props, and scripts. Disheartened, Frank decided that theatrical life was too unpredictable for his taste and looked into other options.
Frank gave up the theater, but not before meeting and romancing Maud Gage, who would become his wife in 1882. Maud was the daughter of prominent suffragette Matilda Joslyn Gage, who was not in favor of the marriage. Frank and Maud married anyway, and Frank endeavored to get serious about a “real” career now that he and Maud were starting a family.
Until tomorrow: Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.