------ The Crime of 1873 - animated GIF banner
The Crime
Macroeconomic Consequences
Political Constituencies
The Cross of Gold Speech
The Elections
Gold Inflation
You are reading the Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Monetary History

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, usually known as a child's tale, might well have been inspired by the story of William Jennings Bryan.

A scholarly article by Hugh Rockoff, reviewed and cited in detail by Nobel Prize Milton Friedman, studies in details the political landscape of the period when the book was written by Frank Baum.

Baum was very close to populist circles and read a lot about current political issues. So we are pretty sure that he knew in details about the Crime of 1873 and the career of William Jennings Bryan. Many similarities are difficult to overlook (I'm not exactly the kind of guy who measures pyramids to find out if they represent the moon-sun distance). I'll give here some of the main arguments, but you'll like to read the article itself, fully accessible to the layman even if it was published in very highbrow economic journal.

Please keep in mind that the movie, though excellent, does depart from the book. If that has really no bearing on its quality as a child's tale or even as a cult camp movie, it is very damaging to the fine interpretation we have to do here. Nevertheless if all you know is the movie, you won't miss much in the following explanation. Please go to the SLIDE BELOW

NB : By clicking on words in the commentary, you will be taken to the glossary where I have defined most of the specialized terms for you. Please use your BACK button to come to the original page.



Characters and their real life counterparts

the 4 main characters
The Tin Woodman (left)
He is the workingman. In the book we learn that he was once flesh and blood but was cursed. As he worked, his ax would take flight and cut off part of his body. A tinsmith would replace the missing part, and the Tin Woodman could work as well as before. Eventually there was nothing left but tin. But for all his increased power to work, the Tin Woodman is unhappy for he had lost his heart. For Rockoff he represents the Populist and Marxist idea of the alienation of the industrial worker. He once was an independent artisan but is now just a cog in a giant machine. He joined the unemployed of the 1890’s, victim of the eastern goldbugs who didn’t want to increase the money supply by adding silver.
The Scare Crow (right)
He is the western farmer, who thinks he has no brain. A major theme of the populist movement was that the people, farmer in particular, were able to understand the complex theories that underlay the choice of a standard.
The Cowardly Lion (middle left)
William Jennings Bryan, the wonderful orator but unsuccessful politician.
The Green building of the Wizard's Palace in Emerald City
The Emerald City, or Washington D.C.

The Tin Woodman and the Wizard

The Tin Woodman receives a heart


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz a a monetary allegory
according to scholar Hugh Rockoff


When Frank Baum writes ...

... he actually thinks.

The party follows the yellow brick road up to the Emerald City

They follow the gold standard up to Washington DC
The tin woodman is given "a new ax with a handle made of gold and a blade polished so that it glistens like burnished silver and a silver oilcan inlaid with gold and precious stones to oil himself " The bimetallic standard will ensure the industrial worker that he won't be unemployed again
In the Emerald Palace they enter 7 passages and climb 3 flights of stairs In the White House they see 7 and 3 : 73
Dorothy can go back to Kansas by "kicking the heels of her silver shoes together three times". The power to solve her problems (by adding silver to the money stock) was there all the time.

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