All About Dr. Seuss
THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!
THERE IS FUN TO BE DONE! THERE ARE
POINTS TO BE SCORED. THERE ARE GAMES TO BE WON."
From: Oh, The Places You'll Go!
Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to the world
as the beloved Dr. Seuss, was born in 1904 on Howard Street in
Springfield, Massachusetts. Ted's father, Theodor Robert, and
grandfather were brewmasters in the city. His mother, Henrietta
Seuss Geisel, often soothed her children to sleep by "chanting"
rhymes remembered from her youth. Ted credited his mother with
both his ability and desire to create the rhymes for which he
became so well known.
Although the Geisels enjoyed great financial success for many
years, the onset of World War I and Prohibition presented both
financial and social challenges for the German immigrants. Nonetheless,
the family persevered and again prospered, providing Ted and his
sister, Marnie, with happy childhoods.
The influence of Ted's memories of Springfield can be seen throughout
his work. Drawings of Horton the Elephant meandering along streams
in the Jungle of Nool, for example, mirror the watercourses in
Springfield's Forest Park from the period. The fanciful truck
driven by Sylvester McMonkey McBean in The
Sneetches could well be the Knox tractor that young
Ted saw on the streets of Springfield. In addition to its name,
Ted's first children's book, And To Think
That I Saw It On Mulberry Street,
is filled with Springfield imagery, including a look-alike of
Mayor Fordis Parker on the reviewing stand, and police officers
riding red motorcycles, the traditional color of Springfield's
famed Indian Motocycles.
Ted left Springfield as a teenager to attend Dartmouth College,
where he became editor-in-chief of the Jack-O-Lantern,
Dartmouth's humor magazine. Although his tenure as editor ended
prematurely when Ted and his friends were caught throwing a drinking
party, which was against the prohibition laws and school policy,
he continued to contribute to the magazine, signing his work "Seuss."
This is the first record of the
"Seuss" pseudonym, which was both Ted's middle name
and his mother's maiden name.
To please his father, who wanted him to be a college professor,
Ted went on to Oxford University in England after graduation.
However, his academic studies bored him, and he decided to tour
Europe instead. Oxford did provide him the opportunity to meet
a classmate, Helen Palmer, who not only became his first wife,
but also a children's author and book editor.
After returning to the United States, Ted began to pursue a career
as a cartoonist. The Saturday Evening Post and other publications
published some of his early pieces, but the bulk of Ted's activity
during his early career was devoted to creating advertising campaigns
for Standard Oil, which he did for more than 15 years.
As World War II approached, Ted's focus shifted, and he began
contributing weekly political cartoons to PM magazine,
a liberal publication. Too old for the draft, but wanting to contribute
to the war effort, Ted served with Frank Capra's Signal Corps
(U.S. Army) making training movies. It was here that he was introduced
to the art of animation and developed a series of animated training
films featuring a trainee called Private Snafu.
While Ted was continuing to contribute to
Life, Vanity Fair, Judge and other magazines, Viking
Press offered him a contract to illustrate a collection of children's
sayings called Boners. Although
the book was not a commercial success, the illustrations received
great reviews, providing Ted with his first "big break"
into children's literature. Getting the first book that he both
wrote and illustrated, And to Think That
I Saw It on Mulberry Street, published, however, required
a great degree of persistence - it was rejected 27 times before
being published by Vanguard Press.
The Cat in the Hat, perhaps
the defining book of Ted's career, developed as part of a unique
joint venture between Houghton Mifflin (Vanguard Press) and Random
House. Houghton Mifflin asked Ted to write and illustrate a children's
primer using only 225 "new-reader" vocabulary words.
Because he was under contract to Random House, Random House obtained
the trade publication rights, and Houghton Mifflin kept the school
rights. With the release of The Cat in
the Hat, Ted became the definitive children's book
author and illustrator.
After Ted's first wife died in 1967, Ted married an old friend,
Audrey Stone Geisel, who not only influenced his later books,
but now guards his legacy as the president of Dr. Seuss Enterprises.
At the time of his death on September 24, 1991, Ted had written
and illustrated 44 children's books, including such all-time favorites
as Green Eggs and Ham, Oh, the Places
You'll Go, Fox in Socks, and How
the Grinch Stole Christmas. His books had been translated
into more than 15 languages. Over 200 million copies had found
their way into homes and hearts around the world.
Besides the books, his works have provided the source for eleven
children's television specials, a Broadway musical and a feature-length
motion picture. Other major motion pictures are on the way.
His honors included two Academy awards, two Emmy awards, a Peabody
award and the Pulitzer Prize.