Chicago: The Show Window Publishing Company, 1900. Single volume, measuring 10.5 x 8 inches: 319, . Original dark green cloth lettered in silver, illustrated with half-tone photographs and diagrams throughout text. Glossary at rear. Penciled signature to front flyleaf. Tidemark to text block, with staining to lower gutter of final pages; several early tape repairs. Cloth bubbled across upper board, corners bumped.
First edition of L. Frank Baum’s obsessively detailed guide to retail show windows, published the same year as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the decades before his success as an author, Baum styled himself as an expert in sales, merchandising, and publicity. He marketed fancy poultry and axle oil, ran his own traveling theater company, founded a South Dakota dry goods emporium called Baum’s Bazaar, and worked as a department store buyer and salesman in Chicago. Drawing on his theatrical background, he established himself as an authority on retail window displays, founding the trade journal The Show Window. In The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors, Baum offers a practical guide to retail spectacles of all kinds. He discusses materials, color theory, set construction, and signage, revealing the mechanical and electrical workings behind the curtain. The text is illustrated with hundreds of photographs, each display of merchandise more dazzling and disorienting than the next. Baum’s manual of “illusion” echoes the big reveal in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: “He pointed to one corner, in which lay the great Head, made out of many thicknesses of paper, and with a carefully painted face. ‘This I hung from the ceiling by a wire,’ said Oz. ‘I stood behind the screen and pulled a thread.’” OCLC locates two holdings, at Columbia and Yale. See Drummond, Aronstein, and Rittenburg, The Road to Wicked: The Marketing and Consumption of Oz from L. Frank Baum to Broadway. A sound copy of a true rarity in American material history.