William Wallace Denslow

This legendary illustrator, often using only by initials of his first names (W. W. Denslow) is best known as the original illustrator of The Wizard of Oz (or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). He actually illustrated only the first book and made a design for the stage production but got into conflict with his friend and author Frank Baum about splitting the profits (as it pans out, there was no profit in the first stage version) and John R. Neill took over the illustrative part of the series.


Denslow was also a caricaturist and political activist, so his work is often interpreted in this light.


He was born in Philadelphia on May 5th, 1856 and died in New York City on March 29th, 1915 (some unreliable sources reported May 27th as the date of death, but this is a mistake). Let’s check some of Denslow's best works and then, as you may expect, I’ll provide some nice trivia:

Mother Goose, 1901

1. W. W. Denslow was married three times. He got a son in the first marriage, but this relation didn’t last long enough to be present at his birth. He never saw his kid! The second and the third marriage were not much better either and when he died he left his property to some other lady.

Tot of Maryland, 1901
Tot of Maryland, 1901

2. His formal training in National Academy of Design didn’t last long, so his knowledge came mostly from self-training. In the meantime, he tried himself at many different jobs, including being a cowboy! His initial success in the field of arts came with designs (posters, book covers, cartoons, and bookplates). Almost each of his work had his specific secret sign - a small seahorse.

Humpty Dumpty, 1903
Humpty Dumpty, 1903

3. He was an alcoholic for many years, stopped drinking, had a mental breakdown, was hospitalized in Michigan sanitorium, got involved into several fiascoes in theater and lost most of his property (he owned an island in the Bermudas for some time, where he proclaimed himself for a king) for wrong investments. He turned to alcohol again and died of pneumonia.