The stories in the collection were serialized in five major newspapers, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Pittsburgh Dispatch, The Boston Post, The St. Louis Republic, and The Chicago Chronicle, between 3 March and 19 May 1901; the book followed in October of the same year. The first three newspapers used or adapted the book's illustrations for the stories, while the Republic and the Chronicle substituted artwork from their own staffs.
Book design and illustration
The first edition of the collection had an unusual design: each page was furnished with a broad illustrated border drawn in pen-and-ink by Ralph Fletcher Seymour, which took up more than half the surface of the page. This probably reflected the influence of the medieval-revival book designs produced in the late nineteenth century by William Morris at his Kelmscott Press. (Baum's first book publisher Way & Williams had Kelmscott connections.) Seymour also designed the book's cover and title page.
The first publication included twelves stories:
- "The Box of Robbers" (illustrated by Ike Morgan)
- "The Glass Dog" (illustrated by Harry Kennedy)
- "The Queen of Quok" (Morgan)
- "The Girl Who Owned a Bear" (Kennedy)
- "The Enchanted Types" (Morgan)
- "The Laughing Hippopotamus" (Morgan)
- "The Magic Bon Bons" (Morgan)
- "The Capture of Father Time" (Kennedy)
- "The Wonderful Pump" (the single story illustrated by N. P. Hall)
- "The Dummy That Lived" (Morgan)
- "The King of the Polar Bears" (Morgan)
- "The Mandarin and the Butterfly" (Morgan)
A new edition published by Bobbs-Merrill in 1908, under the fulsome title Baum's American Fairy Tales: Stories of Astonishing Adventures of American Boys and Girls with the Fairies of Their Native Land. The 1908 edition added an "Author's Note" and three more of Baum's short stories to the collection:
The Bobbs-Merrill edition replaced the original artwork with a new cover and sixteen two-color illustrations by George Kerr. A third edition of c. 1923–24 dropped half the illustrations. This edition kept the book in print as late as 1942.
Although it is not one of the Oz books, several of the stories feature Ryls or Knooks, creatures who would later appear in Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Most of the stories take place in America, but some take place in other fairylands like the Land of Quok, which appears on some maps of the Magical Countries surrounding Oz.