Today is Dr. Seuss’s 108th birthday. The famed author and illustrator was born Theodor S. Geisel, in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904 to parents who had emigrated to the U.S. from Bavaria, which is now a portion of modern-day Germany. The famous Seuss surname was both his mother’s maiden name and his middle name.
Seuss began his writing and illustrating career while in college as he served as a cartoonist at Dartmouth’s humor magazine, The Jack-O’-Lantern, in the mid-1920’s. After a very brief stint at Oxford, Seuss returned to the States and started working on a new profession, drawing cartoons for corporate advertisements. Included in these pieces are cartoons created for Flit, a popular bug spray at the time. Seuss came up with Flit’s famous tagline, “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” which became the catchiest advertising slogan of it’s day. Seuss also drew advertisement cartoons for NBC, General Electric, Standard Oil, Ford and many others. These pieces are housed in the Mandeville Special Collections Library within the University of California-San Diego’s Geisel Library in La Jolla and in an interactive online database on the library’s website.
As the international climate turned to war in the 1940’s, Dr. Seuss used his talents to make a statement about what was going on abroad. Seuss was an interventionist who believed strongly that America’s involvement in the war was necessary. Captain Geisel (as was his military title) served in the war with a unit alongside famed film director Frank Capra and even made military training films with Chuck Jones, who would later develop the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons. From 1941-1943, Seuss served as the editorial cartoonist for a liberal-leaning newspaper in New York City, PM. The Geisel Library website contains hundreds of these cartoons. According to Seuss scholars, Seuss’s political views formed during WWII later influenced his famed children’s books, Yertle the Turtle and The Sneetches.
Dr. Seuss died in 1991 at the age of 87. However, his legacy lives on today with a reading celebration Read Across America and other events across the country. The Geisel Library is also home to close to 8,500 Dr. Seuss items ranging from books, to speeches, to films and fan mail. Due to the fragility of some of the pieces in this collection, it is available to researchers by appointment only at the library.
University Products is fortunate to be located near Theodor S. Geisel’s birthplace. The whole Greater Springfield area has ties with the famous author and his characters. For example, it is said, that “The Lorax”, on which the new movie coming out today is based, has direct references to some local landmarks (where Seuss grew up). To get a feeling for the place that inspired the iconic children’s author, please visit Dr. Seuss National Memorial, at the Quadrangle in Springfield, Mass.
For more information on Dr. Seuss, his works, Seuss related-events, and much more visit Seussville.com.