The cartoonist – Dr Seuss Biography

Dr Seuss Quick Facts:

  • Born: Theodor Seuss Geisel
  • Born on: March 2, 1904 (Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.)
  • Died: September 24, 1991 (aged 87)
  • Pen name: Dr. Seuss, Theo LeSieg, Rosetta Stone, Theophrastus Seuss
  • Occupation: Writer, cartoonist, animator, book publisher, artist
  • Nationality: American
  • Genre: Children’s literature
  • Notable works: Horton Hears a Who! (1954), The Cat in the Hat (1957), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), Green Eggs and Ham (1960), The Lorax (1971)
  • Years active: 1927–1990
  • Spouse : Helen Palmer Geisel (1927–67), Audrey Stone Dimond (1968–91)
Dr Seuss
By Al Ravenna, New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Early Life

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts.  His parents were Henrietta (Seuss) Geisel and Theodor Robert.  His grandparents were of German origin and all were immigrants from Germany.

The father of Dr Seuss first managed a family brewery, after Prohibition caused the brewery’s closure he went on to supervise the public park system in Springfield.

College

Theodor Geisel graduated from Dartmouth College in 1925. At college, he joined the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity was editor-in-chief of the magazine Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern

During his time at Dartmouth, Theodor Geisel was caught drinking and was ban from participation in all extracurricular activities.  In order to keep working on the Jack-O-Lantern magazine Theodor started using a pen name “Seuss.”

After Dartmouth, Geisel went to Lincoln College, Oxford.  At Lincoln started his PhD in English literature, however, his future wife Helen Palmer encouraged him to pursue drawing as a career.

Early career

Theodor Geisel finished at Oxford and returned to the US without earning a degree in 1927.  Back in the US he began to submit his work to magazines, book publishers, and advertising agencies.  He tried to get his cartoons published and was eventually successful with the appearance of his first cartoon in The Saturday Evening Post.

Later in 1927 he became a illustrator and writer at a humor magazine Judge and he then married his first wife Helen. Theodor Geisel first used his pen name “Dr. Seuss” in Judge in early 1928.

In early 1928, one of Dr Seuss’s cartoons for Judge mentioned Flit (common bug spray). This was made by Standard Oil of New Jersey. Dr Seuss was later hired by Flit and his first ad campaign appears in May 1928.  The campaign’s catchphrase was “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” As result of this ad campaign Dr Seuss began to appear regularly in magazines like Life, Liberty, and Vanity Fair.

During the Great Depression he drew advertising for companies like NBC, General Electric, Standard Oil, Narragansett Brewing Company and many other companies.

By 1936, Dr Seuss and his wife had visited 30 countries together. They had no children, lots of money and travelling helped his creative ability.

In 1936 Dr Seuss wrote his first book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.”  Over the next few years he wrote 4 other books:

  • The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins
  • The King’s Stilts
  • The Seven Lady Godivas in 1939,
  • Horton Hatches the Egg.

Essomarine

Dr Seuss gained a significant profile through a program for motor boat lubricants produced by Standard Oil.  The brand name created for this campaign was Essomarine and he created the Seuss Navy.  The campaign lasted from 1935-1941.

World War II-era work

During World War II, Dr Seuss turned to political cartoons.  In two year he drew over 400 cartoons when he was the editorial cartoonist for the New York City daily newspaper.  These cartoons were later published in Dr. Seuss Goes to War and were highly critical of isolationists and isolation policy and denounced Hitler and Mussolini.

The cartoons were left leaning and deplored racism against Jews and blacks while depicting all Japanese Americans traitors.  They were also strongly supportive of President Roosevelt’s handling of the war.

In 1942, Theodor Geisel began drawing posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board.

In 1943, Dr Seuss became an Army Captain and commanded the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces.

He wrote films like:

  • Your Job in Germany, a 1945 propaganda film about peace in Europe after World War II;
  • Our Job in Japan, and
  • The Private Snafu series of adult army training films.
  • Design for Death (1947) was based on Our Job in Japan and was a study of Japanese culture and won an Academy Award

After World War II

After the war,  Dr Seuss moved to California and began writing children’s books again.  Some of his many books were:

  • If I Ran the Zoo, (1950),
  • Horton Hears a Who! (1955),
  • If I Ran the Circus (1956),
  • The Cat in the Hat (1957),
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957) and
  • Green Eggs and Ham (1960).

The musical and fantasy film “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T” was written by Dr Seuss and released in 1953.

Dr Seuss went on to write many other children’s books, both in the older more traditional, more elaborate style as well as his new simplified-vocabulary manner.

In 1956, Dartmouth awarded Geisel with an honorary doctorate and added “Dr.” to his penname.

In October 1967 Helen Palmer Geisel, his wife, committed suicide after a battle with illness and Dr Seuss affair with Audrey Stone Dimond.  Dr Seuss later married Audrey Stone Dimond in June 1968.

Later years and Awards

Dr Seuss died of oral cancer on September 24, 1991 at age 87 and he received many awards and recognition during his life.

Dr. Seuss’s honors include two Academy awards, two Emmy awards, a Peabody award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and the Pulitzer Prize and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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