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Bowen-Merrill

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The Bowen-Merrill Company of Indianapolis published some of the early works of L. Frank Baum. As Bobbs-Merrill, its name after 1903, the firm became a major publishing house in mid-twentieth-century America.

Some of Baum's early books, including The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and American Fairy Tales, were originally published by the George M. Hill Co., a Chicago publisher. When Hill went bankrupt in 1902, the rights to four of Baum's books — Wonderful Wizard, American Fairy Tales, Father Goose, and Dot and Tot of Merryland — were purchased by Bowen-Merrill. Bowen-Merrill had published Baum's The Master Key in 1901, and would also issue Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902) and The Enchanted Island of Yew (1903). A second edition of A New Wonderland (1900), retitled The Magical Monarch of Mo, also was released by the company in 1903.

Bowen-Merrill, which had been in business since 1850 under various names, changed its name to Bobbs-Merrill in 1903 when new partner W. C. Bobbs joined the firm. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz remained in the company's hands for many years after.

Baum, however, was not happy with his treatment by the company or the royalties they paid. When Frank Reilly and Sumner Britton formed Reilly & Britton in 1904, Baum signed a contract with the new firm and stayed with them for the remainder of his career.

Baum lost the royalties from his Bobbs-Merrill books in his bankruptcy in 1911; the rights were transferred to the control of the trustee of his estate, Harrison Rountree, in order to satisfy creditors. Baum's widow Maud Gage Baum did not retrieve the rights to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz until 1932.

In 1925, Bobbs-Merrill put out a new "photoplay" edition of Wonderful Wizard, illustrated with stills from the movie version released that year. This was the first "movie tie-in" for the book, though not the last; others would follow for the 1939 MGM film.

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