Biography: Born in Philadelphia, William Wallace Denslow (1856-1915) studied briefly at the National Academy of Design and the Cooper Union in New York. In the 1880s, after working as an artist and newspaper reporter in various cities, he settled in Chicago in 1893. He initially gained recognition as a poster artist; he also designed books and bookplates, and was the first artist invited to work at the Roycroft Press.
Denslow may have met Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, at the Chicago Press Club, where both men were members. His illustrations for that book became his most famous work. He also illustrated Baum's books By the Candelabra's Glare, Father Goose: His Book, and Dot and Tot of Merryland. They severed their artist-author relationship in 1902 after disagreements over royalties from the 1902 stage adaptation of The Wizard of Oz; Denslow had designed the sets and costumes.
Denslow adapted and illustrated several books based on traditional sources, including Denslow's Mother Goose (1901), Denslow's Night Before Christmas (1902), and the 18-volume Denslow's Picture Books series (1903–04). In the first decade of the 20th century, he used his copyright to the art of the Baum books to create newspaper comic strips featuring Father Goose, the Scarecrow, and Tin Woodman. He also wrote and illustrated a children's book called The Pearl and the Pumpkin. His comic strip Billy Bounce was one of the first in which the lead character had super powers.
The royalties from the print and stage versions of The Wizard of Oz allowed Denslow to purchase Bluck's Island, Bermuda, and eccentrically crown himself King Denslow I.
Denslow had three wives and was divorced from each. His first wife, Annie McCartney (née, Anna M. Lowe, 1856-1908) married him in 1882 and gave birth to his only child, a son, the following year. The couple were already separated, however, and Denslow never saw his son. They divorced in 1896. He then married Anne Holden, the daughter of Martha Holden, writer; they split in 1903. Denslow then married his third wife, Frances G. Doolittle. Frances left him in 1906 and they divorced in 1911. He rewrote his will in 1914 leaving his estate to a fourth woman.