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The Uplifters

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The Lofty and Exalted Order of Uplifters was a gentlemen's social group in which L. Frank Baum was a prominent and active member.

The group was formed by a coterie of members of the Los Angeles Athletic Club. It was started in 1909 by Chicago businessman Harry Marston Haldeman. Its stated purpose was to "uplift art, promote good fellowship and build a closer acquaintance" among its members.

The group met for Saturday lunches; their first official dinner was held on 10 December 1913. The majority of the Uplifters were successful businessmen; local actors and artists contributed their talents instead of paying dues. Baum supplied materials for Uplifter activities and amateur theatricals, including full stage shows for the group's annual outings:

  • Stagecraft, or the Adventure of a Strictly Moral Man (1914)
  • The Uplift of Lucifer, or Raising Hell: An Allegorical Squazosh (1915)
  • The Uplifters' Minstrels (1916)
  • The Orpheus Road Show: A Paraphrastic Compendium of Mirth (1917)

— the first two and the last had music by Louis F. Gottschalk, another member of the group. (Only the second of these, The Uplift of Lucifer, survives.) In turn, Uplifter members like Gottschalk and Haldeman were important in Baum's commercial theater and film activities during his California years.

Baum dedicated his 1915 Oz book The Scarecrow of Oz to the Uplifters, "in grateful appreciation of the pleasure I have derived from association with them, and in recognition of their sincere endeavor to uplift humanity through kindness, consideration and good-fellowship. They are big men — all of them — and all with the generous hearts of little children."

Among the members were banker Marco Hellman; Sim Crabill, an executive with the Los Angeles Times Mirror; and bicycle manufacturer Ralph Hamlin. Over the nearly five decades of the group's life, Harold Lloyd, Will Rogers, Walt Disney, Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Daryl Zanuck, and composer Ferde Grofe all were members (though many of these celebrities post-dated Baum's period).

Another member of the group was actor and former Keystone Cop Charles Murray, who was in the cast of the 1925 Wizard of Oz movie.

The Uplifters expanded their activities after Baum's death. In the 1920s they acquired property in Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica, and built cabins and a club house, with a polo field and other amenities. The club continued in existence until 1947.

References

  • Katharine M. Rogers. L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography. New York, St. Martin's Press, 2002.
  • Cecilia Rasmussen. "Goofy Goings-On at Honcho Hangout." Los Angeles Times, 30 June 2002.

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