Wizard of Oz collection at Linden Hill product of a decades-long friendship with the Musser family

Laura Jane Musser maintained  friendship with Margaret Hamilton

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
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Pat Sharon’s favorite actor in the Wizard of Oz was Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West character in the movie. “Even as a child, I really enjoyed her character; I thought it was hilarious,” said Sharon. “She had a great cackle.”

The Musser family’s involvement with the 1939 movie production of “The Wizard of Oz” began with Laura Jane Musser’s grandfather. Peter Musser was a friend of author L. Frank Baum, who wrote “The Wizard of Oz.”

“Peter Musser was an investor in the movie, and because of that, Laura Jane visited the movie set,” said Pat Sharon, chair of the Historical Preservation Committee of the nonprofit Friends of Linden Hill.

“Laura Jane became fast friends with Margaret Hamilton, who came many times to stay at the Musser Mansion,” Sharon said.

Correspondence and memorabilia in Laura Jane Musser’s collection give evidence to their friendship. There is a photo from “The Wizard of Oz” production signed by Hamilton on display, and Laura Jane called Hamilton “Maggie.” Musser and Hamilton travelled to Hawaii together, staying at the Royal Hawaiian.

The Wizard of Oz collection includes a variety of dolls, photos, drawings and sketches, board games and framed posters. There are porcelain figurines, costumes, music boxes and collector plates.

New items are being discovered continually, as the Friends of Linden Hill continue the task of sorting through every closet and storage space on the property.

Volunteer and tour guide Mel Kurowski’s favorite piece of the collection is a music box. “It was found in a pile of stuff in the attic,” he said. “It’s amazing that it survived all these years despite how it was packed.”

The music box is a model of the magnificent pipe organ played in the Emerald City. “It was made in Switzerland, but it’s very delicate now, with peeling paint,” said Kurowski.

Sharon’s favorite piece is a signed and framed photo of author L. Frank Baum. “As a former librarian, his being an author appeals to me,” she said.

Laura Jane noted in a tribute following Hamilton’s death, that one of Hamilton’s favorite sayings was, “Do your best, no matter what.”

Linden Hill is home to more than 50 collections. There are more than 9,000 books. There is clothing, crystal, stamps and British Royal Family memorabilia. There are games, more than 500 dolls and 15 sets of china.

“We are still unpacking and sorting, always finding new things,” said Sharon.

Tours of the Weyerhaeuser and Musser Mansions, which together comprise the Linden Hill Historical Event Center, are available Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Weekend and bus tours are by appointment only. Tour fees start at $5.

For more information, call (320) 616-5580.