Wizard of Oz Secrets

The BBC has picked up the “secret” story of the Wizard of Oz:

Baum published the book in 1900, just after the US emerged from a period of deflation and depression. Prices had fallen by about 22% over the previous 16 years, causing huge debt.

Farmers were among those badly affected, and the Populist political party was set up to represent their interests and those of industrial labourers.

The US was then operating on the gold standard – a monetary system which valued the dollar according to the quantity of gold. The Populists wanted silver, along with gold, to be used for money. This would have increased the US money supply, raised price levels and reduced farmers’ debt burdens.

Since originally I am from Kansas, and enjoy reading history, I have always been fascinated by the code and how few people were able (willing?) to crack it, even with a publicly available reference.

This is how I always knew the story. So whenever someone brings up the 1939 film version with those strange red slippers I feel compelled to explain to them why a ruby standard makes no sense.

…Littlefield’s theory has been hotly debated. He believed the characters could represent the personalities and themes of the late 1800s,with Dorothy embodying the everyman American spirit.

US political historian Quentin Taylor, who supports this interpretation, says: “There are too many instances of parallels with the political events of the time.

“The Tin Woodman represents the industrial worker, the Scarecrow is the farmer and the Cowardly Lion is William Jennings Bryan.”

Great stuff. Perhaps the strangest chapter of all is more recent. Bob Dole, the son of staunch populists in rural Kansas, ran for President as a conservative Republican who favored corporate wealth and trickle-down economics, the opposite of his roots.

Update: the ruby slippers from the film are going to be auctioned for a lot of money to someone who probably doesn’t know and/or doesn’t care that they are meant to be silver.

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