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The Quick 10: Happy Birthday, L. Frank Baum!

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Happy Birthday to L. Frank Baum, who would have been 153 today. To honor the man behind the man behind the curtain, I thought we'd check out some details of his rather interesting life.

young1. Aspiring novelists who are plugging away at jobs that don't interest you just so you can pay your bills, take hope: before Oz, Baum was writing exciting pieces like The Rose Lawn Home Journal, The Stamp Collector, Baum's Complete Stamp Dealers' Directory and my favorite, The Poultry Record. Although his first book was a non-fiction book about chickens (The Book of the Hamburgs: a Brief Treatise Upon the Mating, Rearing and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs), it was his first step into the book-publishing world. He was 30 when the Hamburg book was published and didn't publish the first of the Oz series until he was 44. Is it just me, or is young Baum kinda cute under that mustache?

2. He wrote under at least seven different names: L. Frank Baum, of course, but also Edith Van Dyne, Floyd Akers, Schuyler Staunton, John Estes Cooke, Suzanne Metcalf and Laura Bancroft.

gage3. His mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was a well-known feminist (who didn't like Baum much). She, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony actually wrote History of Woman Suffrage in the Gage home. His close ties to these women definitely influenced his work "“ his second Oz book had the women of the land revolt, resulting in the men of Oz doing the household chores.
4. Not all of their views matched up, though "“ while Gage was very much an advocate of Native American rights and was even initiated into the Wolf Clan of the Iroquois under the name Karonienhawi ("she who holds the sky"), Baum published a couple of editorials that basically suggested that Native Americans should be exterminated. With Sitting Bull's death, he wrote, "the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians."

5. One of his jobs before hitting it big was at the Aberdeen Weekly Pioneer in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Before that, he owned a general store he called "Baum's Bazaar," which is where kids in town started to know him for his stories. When he took the job with the newspaper, he would walk from store to store to inquire about ad sales. He would get accosted by so many children asking him to tell them a story, he eventually designated about an hour of his daily rounds to sitting on a curb telling tall tales to kids.

6. Baum was quite adept at predicting inventions of the future. In his children's book The Master Key: An Electrical Fairy Tale, he wrote about crazy inventions that sound a lot like computers ("I don't see why one should read newspapers when the Record of Events shows all that is going on in the world," says the little boy in the story) and televisions and in Tik-Tok of Oz he has some creations that are a lot like cell phones.

baum7. Before Oz, Baum's first children's book success was Father Goose, His Story, illustrated by William Denslow, who would start illustrating the Oz books just a year later. Baum was very proud of the Father Goose success and started adding geese to the family décor anywhere he could possibly incorporate them, including in stained glass windows and stenciled on furniture and woodwork. He carried this habit over after Dorothy and Co. became famous: he named one of their dogs Toto and referred to their house in California as "Ozcot."
8. He was an avid horticulturalist. As you can tell by his earlier printed works, he always had a penchant for gardening, but his writing success later in life afforded him the time and money to actually tend to it. When he and his wife bought the house in California, he immediately set up a garden in the backyard and had a very specific upkeep routine that he carried out on a daily basis. He won tons of awards for his gorgeous flowers, specifically dahlias and chrysanthemums.

9. He died on May 5, 1919, and uttered these last words to his wife: "Now we can cross the Shifting Sands." He's buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, which I am visiting next week, so be sure to look for my cemetery tour post during the last week of May!

10. Despite his death 20 years earlier, Baum may have still been keeping his eye on The Wizard of Oz set in 1939. How's this for a creepy coincidence? When the costume designers for the movie were looking for a coat for the Wizard to wear, they went to a secondhand shop and bought a bunch, then brought them back to the set for the actor to try on. He tried them all and made his choice, but it wasn't until a few weeks later that he discovered a label inside the coat with the original owner's name in it "“ L. Frank Baum. Everyone was understandably skeptical, but the story checked out "“ the coat was specially-made for Baum by a tailor in Chicago and his widow Maud recognized it from his collection.

This might be a loaded question, but do you prefer the Oz books or the Oz movie (and why?)? I don't even think I can tell you my preference"¦ I remember very much enjoying the books as a kid, but it has been so long since I read them that I don't think I could properly compare the two anymore.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
6 Radiant Facts About Irène Joliot-Curie
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though her accomplishments are often overshadowed by those of her parents, the elder daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie was a brilliant researcher in her own right.


A black and white photo of Irene and Marie Curie in the laboratory in 1925.
Irène and Marie in the laboratory, 1925.
Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Irène’s birth in Paris in 1897 launched what would become a world-changing scientific dynasty. A restless Marie rejoined her loving husband in the laboratory shortly after the baby’s arrival. Over the next 10 years, the Curies discovered radium and polonium, founded the science of radioactivity, welcomed a second daughter, Eve, and won a Nobel Prize in Physics. The Curies expected their daughters to excel in their education and their work. And excel they did; by 1925, Irène had a doctorate in chemistry and was working in her mother’s laboratory.


Like her mother, Irène fell in love in the lab—both with her work and with another scientist. Frédéric Joliot joined the Curie team as an assistant. He and Irène quickly bonded over shared interests in sports, the arts, and human rights. The two began collaborating on research and soon married, equitably combining their names and signing their work Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie.


Black and white photo of Irène and Fréderic Joliot-Curie working side by side in their laboratory.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Their passion for exploration drove them ever onward into exciting new territory. A decade of experimentation yielded advances in several disciplines. They learned how the thyroid gland absorbs radioiodine and how the body metabolizes radioactive phosphates. They found ways to coax radioactive isotopes from ordinarily non-radioactive materials—a discovery that would eventually enable both nuclear power and atomic weaponry, and one that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.


The humanist principles that initially drew Irène and Frédéric together only deepened as they grew older. Both were proud members of the Socialist Party and the Comité de Vigilance des Intellectuels Antifascistes (Vigilance Committee of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals). They took great pains to keep atomic research out of Nazi hands, sealing and hiding their research as Germany occupied their country, Irène also served as undersecretary of state for scientific research of the Popular Front government.


Irène eventually scaled back her time in the lab to raise her children Hélène and Pierre. But she never slowed down, nor did she stop fighting for equality and freedom for all. Especially active in women’s rights groups, she became a member of the Comité National de l'Union des Femmes Françaises and the World Peace Council.


Irène’s extraordinary life was a mirror of her mother’s. Tragically, her death was, too. Years of watching radiation poisoning and cancer taking their toll on Marie never dissuaded Irène from her work. In 1956, dying of leukemia, she entered the Curie Hospital, where she followed her mother’s luminous footsteps into the great beyond.

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Live Smarter
You Can Now Order Food Through Facebook
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After a bit of controversy over its way of aggregating news feeds and some questionable content censoring policies, it’s nice to have Facebook roll out a feature everyone can agree on: allowing you to order food without leaving the social media site.

According to a press release, Facebook says that the company decided to begin offering food delivery options after realizing that many of its users come to the social media hub to rate and discuss local eateries. Rather than hop from Facebook to the restaurant or a delivery service, you’ll be able to stay within the app and select from a menu of food choices. Just click “Order Food” from the Explore menu on a desktop interface or under the “More” option on Android or iOS devices. There, you’ll be presented with options that will accept takeout or delivery orders, as well as businesses participating with services like or EatStreet.

If you need to sign up and create an account with or Jimmy John’s, for example, you can do that without leaving Facebook. The feature is expected to be available nationally, effective immediately.

[h/t Forbes]


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