Hats Off to Dr. Seuss

If you are familiar with creative work by the beloved children’s book author and illustrator, Dr. Seuss, you might have noticed that hats play a very important role in his art. Cat in the Hat? The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins? Even the big fat fish from “One Fish, Two Fish” has a tiny yellow hat perched (no pun intended) on it’s head! You can find a creature sporting some sort of headgear on practically every page of his prolific collection of books! But what you may not know, is that Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) himself was an avid collector and wearer of hats! Hundreds of them, according to his sister, Marnie, who wrote about it in Springfield Union News in 1937: “Ted has another peculiar hobby—that of collecting hats of every description…”
Now, twenty-six original hats from Dr. Seuss’ fascinating personal collection, as well as photographs and art reproductions showing the intricate links between the real hats and the imaginary ones, are part of the National Touring Exhibition, appropriately called “Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!” Current stop for this marvelous show is Wilmington, NC, and you can see the full schedule here.

Obviously, we are also interested in hats from a conservation point of view. Being rather fragile, 3-dimentional and often oddly-shaped objects, they are not very easy to preserve. University Products has many options for both storage and display that are used by museum professionals and conservators all around the world. Whether you’re trying to preserve a Fur Hat worn by the Czar of Russia or your grandmother’s little pill box number worn on the day she eloped with your grandfather, similar guidelines should apply.

First of all, conduct all necessary cleaning and repair before attempting to store or display the hat. Professional conservators start by carefully removing dust, dirt and other environmental debris and, if required, mending rips and/or signs of wear and tear. After the initial prep, the hats need support from the inside, so they will not loose their original shape. This can be achieved with a custom-made support (for example, carved out of Ethafoam), by using a Head Mount, or simply by stuffing the hat with Acid-free Tissue. For long term storage, protection from sunlight and dust is essential. Archival Quality Hat Boxes are a perfect solution for these tasks. For display, specially designed Hat Stands or Head Mounts with Lifelike Features would be ideal.

Please remember to always consult a professional conservator (unless you are one :)) before attempting any kind of treatment on objects of monetary or sentimental value.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

dr. seussToday 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.

Geisel Library Building
Geisel Library Building

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.

dr. seuss national memorial sculpturesUniversity 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.