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William Wallace Denslow Collection

An inventory of his Collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: Dec 1996

Biographical History

William Wallace Denslow (1856-1915) was an American artist and illustrator, best known as the illustrator of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. While much of his additional work as an artist and illustrator wasn't recognized until the late twentieth century, he eventually garnered praise for his clever and often cynical designs, his striking, multicolored posters, his ability to target his illustrations by audience, and for amending popular children's verse to avoid what he considered unnecessary violence and questionable content.

Denslow began training in design and illustration at age 14 at the Cooper Union Institute and the National Academy of Art and Design, both in New York City. He began selling his work at age twenty, worked for newspapers and periodicals, designed theatrical costumes and posters in Chicago, and created advertising and literature for Roycroft, a handicraft studio.

In 1896, Denslow met Baum, and the two collaborated on Father Goose, His Book. A year later, they published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which soon became an American icon and children's literary breakthrough. They only collaborated on one more book, Dot and Tot of Merryland, considered Denslow's most purely decorative creation. Some people attribute the bitter separation of the men to Denslow's greed, especially when financial disputes arose after The Wonderful World of Oz was transformed into a popular film.

Denslow spent the latter part of his career illustrating, rewriting, and reinterpreting classic children's stories and fairy tales, often removing what he considered to be violent and immoral behavior from the works. During this time, he suffered from a drinking problem and never reclaimed the intensity of his early success. He died in 1915.

(Adapted from "W(illiam) W(allace) Denslow" in Contemporary Authors.)

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The William Wallace Denslow Collection comprises several pieces of signed original Artwork by the American illustrator and artist (1856-1915). Five of the items, inscribed and/or addressed to Judge W.T. ("Biff") and Mrs. Hall of Chicago, are from 1900 and 1901: two postal cards, two Chirstmas cards, and an invitation to a New Year's Eve party to usher in the new century. Other items include pencil drawings of "Dacious [the dog] at 5" an untitled image of a man in a bathtub, amidst rising steam, and an ink sketch of a young girl with a sheep.

Arrangement of the Collection

No particular order.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Additional material relating to William Wallace Denslow may be found in the Library's L. Frank Baum Papers.

A number of pencil and ink drawings by Denslow are held by the University Art Collections and can be found at the Lowe Art Gallery in the Shaffer Art Building. Call 315-443-3127 for an appointment.

Subject Headings


Denslow, W.W. (William Wallace), 1856-1915.


Illustrators United States Correspondence.
Caricatures and cartoons United States.
Illustrators United States Juvenile literature.
Illustrators United States.

Genres and Forms

Christmas cards.
Picture postcards.
Watercolors (paintings)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

William Wallace Denslow Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Russell P. MacFall; unknown.

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