Seuss, Dr., 1904-1991Variant names
Theodor Seuss Geisel (March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991), beloved author and illustrator of children's books known as Dr. Seuss, was born on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts to Theodor Robert and Henrietta (Seuss) Geisel. His father, the son of German immigrant parents, managed the family brewery and later supervised (1931-1960) Springfield's public park system. Ted Geisel grew up in the midst of a German American community coping with growing anti-German war sentiment, attended Springfield's Central High School as an average student and entered Dartmouth College in the fall of 1921, where he studied English and edited (1924-1925) the college's humor magazine, Jack O'Lantern . After graduating from Dartmouth, he attended Lincoln College at Oxford University to study English literature, but soon abandoned the effort in favor of pursuing a career in illustration. While at Oxford, Geisel courted his future wife, Helen Marion Palmer.
Geisel returned to Springfield in 1926 and began a career as a freelance illustrator by sending humorous pieces and cartoons to newspapers and magazines. With the encouraging sale of a cartoon for twenty-five dollars to the Saturday Evening Post, Geisel moved to New York and soon landed a job as a writer and artist for the humor magazine Judge . On November 29, 1927, he married Helen Palmer and a year later they made their first visit to La Jolla, California. In 1928, Geisel began what developed into a seventeen year advertising campaign for "Flit" insecticide, a product of Standard Oil of New Jersey. The "Flit" account provided financial security and time for the Geisels to travel abroad. Other advertising accounts included Essolube motor oil and Essomarine products (both for Standard Oil of New Jersey), the Ford Motor Company, the National Broadcasting Company, Holly Sugar, and Narragansett Lager and Ale.
In 1931, Ted Geisel illustrated his first book, entitled Boners, a collection of children's sayings, which generated enough interest to warrant a second volume, More Boners . But the beginning of Geisel's career as the author and illustrator of children's books came with the publication of And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937), a work that combined rhyme and illustration. Geisel published four more books before the outbreak of the Second World War, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (1938), The Seven Lady Godivas (1939), The King's Stilts (1939) and Horton Hatches The Egg (1940). Although his first two books were published by Vanguard Press, Geisel soon switched to Random House as a result of the efforts of Bennett Cerf, editor and chief executive officer.
Between 1941 and 1943, Geisel regularly contributed incisive, humorous cartoons critical of American isolationist foreign policy to the daily, PM Newspaper . On December 31, 1942, he was commissioned as a captain in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Information and Education Division and was assigned to the Special Services Division in Hollywood. Rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel, Geisel's projects included illustrations for educational publications and a film entitled Your Job In Germany . He received the Legion of Merit award, and after the war, moved to a house in La Jolla, California, dubbed "The Tower."
Geisel went on to become one of the most prolific children’s authors of the twentieth century. He resumed his career in children's books with the publication of McElligot's Pool (1947) and went on to publish another forty books under the pseudonym of Dr. Seuss, thirteen as Theo LeSieg, and one as Rosetta Stone. In 1957, he published his most famous book, The Cat In The Hat, which was, in part, a reaction to John Hersey's complaint in a 1954 Life Magazine article that the primers used to teach reading were dull and repititious. The Cat In The Hat served as a prototype for Beginner Books, a publishing division of Random House headed by Geisel (1957-1991) that promoted children's literacy through the associative richness of works and images. Three films for which Geisel wrote the original stories have won Academy Awards: Hitler Lives (1946); Design For Death (1947); and the animation short, Gerald McBoing-Boing (1951). Ted Geisel also wrote a musical entitled The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. Geisel wrote an additional four original works for television.
Over the course of his career, Geisel published over 60 books, which have spawned numerous adaptations, including 11 television specials, five feature films, a Broadway musical, and four television series. Geisel's most celebrated books include Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Horton Hatches the Egg, Horton Hears a Who, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. As Dr. Seuss, his honors include two Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and the Pulitzer Prize. Geisel won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958 for Horton Hatches the Egg and again in 1961 for And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Geisel's birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association. He also received two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Children's Special for Halloween is Grinch Night (1978) and Outstanding Animated Program for The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat (1982).
Helen Geisel died on October 23, 1967. Ted Geisel later married Audrey Stone Diamond and continued to live and work at "The Tower" in La Jolla until his death in 1991.
|Caricatures and cartoons
|Children's literature, American
|Parents' and teachers' associations
|World War II
|World War II, 1939-1945