Introduction
In 1900 a Chicago department store advertised its new line of milli-
nery using L. Frank Baum’s ‘‘vanishing lady,’’ the latest technological
advance in the art of window
dressing.1
This display, featuring the
top half of a female mannequin, which would periodically disappear
and reappear dressed in endlessly new outfits, had a startling effect
on Chicago passersby. Hundreds flocked to see the female torso dis-
appear and reappear. Indeed, so great was the public reaction to this
figure that ‘‘the second day the firm using it was compelled to put
up an iron railing in front of the plate glass for fear it would be bro-
ken by crowds.’’
2
Other contemporaneous show windows had used
mechanical figures to little effect. Yet Baum’s vanishing lady, like the
late Victorian magic act that inspired it, produced a rare intensity of
excitement, suggesting that there might be something inherent to
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