The Wonderful Wizard of Oz opens in Kansas, the center of the little known "free silver" movement of that time.

The cyclone which carries Dorothy and her dog Toto away to the land of OZ, is a metaphor for the discontent that swept the depressed U.S. prarie states during that period. The midwestern United States was most heavily hit by the depression, and had the highest amount of social disorder (e.g., the "Oakies" who emmigrated West).

The abbreviation "oz" is, of course, a form of writing "ounce", as in gold costing $400 / oz., and Toto - a common abbreviation at that period - connects us to the "Teetolaers". Otherwise known as the Prohibition Party, Teetolalers lent their unbridled support to the forces advocating the adoption of silver in return for their support on liquor prohibition.

Dorothy is informed by the Munchkins who inhabit Oz that her landing has killed the Wicked Witch of the East. This is clearly a reference to the Eastern establishment of President McKinley, who notoriously supported the gold standard.

In order to return to Kansas, Dorothy is told to follow the Yellow Brick Road - a clear reference to the gold bricks in which official gold was held - and to take with her the Witches's silver slippers, the silver that Bryan's supporters wanted added to the money supply (note: Hollywood later changed the silver slippers to ruby slippers in the movie version of Baum's work.)

On her way along the Yellow Brick Road Dorothy's first encounters the Scarecrow, who represents the agricultural workers who supported moving from the gold standard to a gold-silver-based bimetallic standard.

Then she meets the Tin Woodsman, who represents the industrial unions that joined the movement to end the gold standard.

The Cowardly Lion who tags along is presidential candidate Bryan himself, whose dedication to reaching the Emerald City becomes as much in doubt as Bryans's commitment to end the U.S. attachment to gold.

Numerous other references to gold and silver line the road that the strange foursome - Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion - follow, including the golden plate capping the pot of courage, the gold buckle that threatened to lock them up forever, and the gold-handled axe with a blade that glistened like silver.

The Wicked Witch of the West grabs one of the silver slippers; divided, the silver forces would not reach goal. It was to be several years after The Wizard of Oz was published before the gold standard was finally abandoned.


Sources: Journal of Political Economy, August 1991, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Fall 1992, International Finance, Levy, 1992

The name Oz may or may not have come from ounces, as this node alludes to (see above). There is a story that L. Frank Baum, when telling the story to a young child, was asked the name of the fantastic place. Frank looked into the next room across, and saw on a filing cabinet the words "A-N" and "O-Z" on it's two drawers. However, this story is slightly patchy, and Frank seemed to have told it 2 different ways. It seems more likely the allegorical theory is correct.

'The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism' an important article first publish in the American Quarterly in 1964, by Hank Littlefield. It was the first work to document the links between L. Frank Baum's The wonderful wizard of Oz and the Populist Movement. While Littlefield later backed off his stance on the subject over the years, it is a widely taught theory among college level U.S. history courses.

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