CONTEXT

May 15, 2011

R & D

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 12:14 am
Tags: , , ,

It was more than 400 years ago that a gentleman-adventurer named Bartholomew Gosnold pioneered a route west from the Azores to the Americas.  A lawyer and big believer in the potential of the new world, Gosnold was keen to get a colony started across the pond, but first he had to get the lay of the land.  So he set out one spring in a fairly small ship with a crew of 32 and, without apparent incident, arrived at Cape Elizabeth, Maine, in May.

Gosnold on Cuttyhunk, by Albert Bierstadt

He moved south to York Harbor, arriving on May 14.  The next day he sailed a bit further south and on May 15, 1602, discovered Cape Cod. (He also found a nice little island which he named for his daughter, calling it Martha’s Vineyard.)

Gosnold went back to England full of enthusiasm for Northern Virginia, which is what New England was then called.  He got the Virginia Company going, recruited a lot of like-minded adventuring types – including Capt. John Smith – along with some willing colonists and by 1609 had started the Jamestown Colony.

Four months after landing in Virginia – or can we call it Southern New England? – he died of a fever at the age of 35.  His untimely death is the only possible explanation for the fact that despite his pivotal role in the settling of America, he seems to be pretty much left out of the history books.  Without his discovery of a good route and his explorations along the coast, later colonists would have had an even harder time of it.

And, btw, I don’t think digging up his bones and putting them on display at the Smithsonian is at all nice.

 * * *

Well, let us celebrate the 1856 birth of Lyman Frank Baum, a writer, editor and dramatist who really wanted to be in show business more than anything, but who was stuck writing books for children because they sold like hot cakes. The Wizard of Oz was published in September of 1900 and a month later the first edition had sold out and supplies of the second were dwindling.

The first dramatic version of The Wizard of Oz was Baum’s own,  written with a collaborator – it opened in January of 1902 and ran until October of the same year, then went on the road with the original cast.

Baum wrote 13 Oz books (as well as about 40 0thers) and after his death from a stroke at the age of 62, the publishers hired writers to produce another 19 in the series. With the success of the books in print and on Broadway, Baum moved to Hollywood and started a film company to make Oz movies.  They must have been pretty bad, because despite the popularity of the stage shows, nobody went to see the movies and after a year, the company folded.

Four of the features made that year, however, surfaced in the 1980s and are now apparently on DVD, though doubtless of interest solely to film historians.

So, Baum died in Hollywood and is buried at Forest Lawn, which would probably have pleased him.

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2 Comments »

  1. Thanks for the reminder of Lyman Frank Baum’s birthday! I love that he created the great American fairy tale, set in Kansas, using a North American tornado as the gateway to magical OZ, as some of the great British fantasy writers used a wardrobe closet for Narnia, or Platform 9 3/4, Kings Cross Station for Harry Potter to board the Hogwarts Express!)

    Comment by Celia Carroll — May 15, 2011 @ 8:19 am | Reply

  2. God bless America, good story. Ozzzzzzzzzzz right another good story. Thank you Jean.

    Comment by avery — May 15, 2011 @ 12:37 pm | Reply


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