L. Frank Baum went west to America’s next great wilderness following the footsteps of those who had always sought out some new wilderness into which their dreams and visions could be projected. The wilderness in America was as much made of man’s ideology as it was unexplored territory. Imagined towns flourished and conjectural utopian communities thrived even as the very real hardships of wilderness life wiped them away time and time again. Only occasionally did man’s vision and his ability to make that vision a reality intersect. Baum was looking for just such an intersection when he came to the Dakota Territory with his growing family.
More than his family accompanied him however. There was also peculiar dreams and ambitions, a curious combination of theatrical flair and New England practicality, genteel wealth and polite poverty and a void deep within that was already filling with random ideas and stories that would begin to take the form of other-world’s on the vast empty prairie. Here they would take root. Imagination, it turns out was one of the few things to readily grow in the Dakotas and Baum’s imagination, it turns out was his path to the fame, fortune and the fulfillment of his life’s vision.
His first attempt at making this vision a reality would be Baum’s bazaar a store dedicated to supplying all the luxuries people want in a world that demanded little more than the bare necessities. After an initial success, owing in large part to the sheer novelty of it things turned sour and Baum’s Bazaar closed its door while Baum, as was his trademark talent managed to open up another door, this time a newspaper, the prefect vehicle for a natural storyteller with an eye towards social conscience. It might have succeeded but for the fact that it was one of several already struggling newspapers in the town of Aberdeen. This was one more failure for Baum and yet through it all he never let himself slump into depression or weariness, quite the contrary, each failure seemed to invigorate him and fill him with a new sense of purpose and a new direction.