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  Linguistics, Languages, and LiteraturesAmerican Literature1900-1960

Theodor Seuss GeiselDr. Seuss

author of some of the most popular children's books ever published

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born to German immigrants in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 2, 1904. His father owned a brewery until Prohibition took effect, after which he became the Superintendent of City Parks. One of the parks the elder Geisel supervised was the local zoo, and Theodor spent many hours there drawing the animals, and developing his own unique artistic style in the process.

After graduating from high school, Geisel entered Dartmouth College, where he became the editor-in-chief of the Jack-O-Lantern, the college's humor magazine. Although he was removed from his position after being caught drinking (in violation of college policy and the law), Geisel continued to contribute stories to the magazine, and it was during this time that he first began using the pen name "Seuss." After graduating from Dartmouth in 1925, Geisel entered Lincoln College at Oxford University in England with the intention of becoming an English professor. He found academia too stifling however, and left Oxford in 1926. He subsequently spent time traveling throughout Europe before returning to the United States and settling in New York City.

In New York City, Geisel spent 15 years creating advertising campaigns for the Standard Oil Company. He also worked as a freelance magazine cartoonist, selling cartoons and humorous prose pieces to the major humor magazines of the 1920's and 1930's, including Vanity Fair and Saturday Evening Post.

Geisel began writing his first children's book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, during a rough sea passage from Europe. To amuse himself during the voyage, he put together a nonsense poem set to the rhythm of the ship's engines, and then drew pictures to illustrate the rhyme. Success as a writer took perseverance however, as the book was rejected by 29 publishers before finally being published by Vanguard Press in 1937. Set in Springfield, the story about a boy whose imagination transforms a simple horse-drawn wagon into an exotic parade of strange creatures and vehicles won much praise from critics, especially for its unique illustrations. The book's success allowed Geisel to give up freelance work and become a full-time children's book author.

After the United States entered World War II, Geisel put aide his writing to join the war effort. Too old for the draft, he joined Frank Capra's Signal Corps (a division of the U.S. Army), with which he created a series of animated training films featuring a trainee named Private Snafu. He was also responsible for two Oscar-winning documentaries -- Hitler Lives and Design for Death.

Geisel resumed his writing career after the war and enjoyed success, but even greater success was still to come. In 1954, according to family legend, Geisel's publisher bet him that he could not write a children's book using fewer than 250 words. Geisel took the bet and the result was The Cat in the Hat, which came in at 223 words. The book was an immediate hit, and proceeds from its sale allowed Geisel to found Beginner Books in 1958. Now a well-established and much beloved children's author, Geisel went on to pen another 40+ Dr. Seuss books, several of which were made into animated television specials and movies.

Theodor Seuss Geisel died of cancer of the jaw at his home in La Jolla, California, on September 24, 1991. The name Dr. Seuss continues to live on in the world of children's literature however, as four of the 10 best-selling hardcover children's books of all time were written by him -- The Cat in the Hat; Green Eggs and Ham; On Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; and Hop on Pop.

In addition to his two Academy awards, Geisel was also the recipient of two Emmy awards, a Peabody award, and a Pulitzer Prize. In 1990, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (as Dr. Seuss) in recognition of the eleven television specials, three feature films, and a Broadway musical based on his books.

Dr. Seuss Books

And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937)
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (1938)
The King's Stilts (1939)
Horton Hatches the Egg (1940)
McElligot's Pool (1947)
Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose (1948)
Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949)
If I Ran the Zoo (1950)
Scrambled Eggs Super! (1953)
Horton Hears A Who! (1954)
On Beyond Zebra (1955)
If I Ran the Circus
(1956)
The Cat in the Hat (1957)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957)
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (1958)
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back! (1958)
Happy Birthday to You! (1959)
Green Eggs and Ham (1960)
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960)
The Sneetches and Other Stories (1961)
Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book (1962)
Dr. Seuss's ABC (1963)
Hop on Pop (1963)
Fox in Socks (1965)
I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (1965)
The Cat in the Hat Song Book (1967)
The Foot Book (1968)
I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! And Other Stories (1969)
My Book About Me (1969)
I Can Draw It Myself (1970)
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? (1970)
The Lorax (1971)
Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! (1972)
Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? (1973)
The Shape of Me and Other Stuff (1973)
Great Day for Up (1974)
There's a Wocket in My Pocket! (1974)
Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! (1975)
The Cat's Quizzer (1976)
I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! (1978)
Oh Say Can You Say? (1979)
Hunches in Bunches (1982)
The Butter Battle Book (1984)
You're Only Old Once! (1986)
I Am Not Going to Get Up Today! (1987)
Oh, the Places You'll Go! (1990)

Published Posthumously

Daisy-Head Mayzie (1994)
My Many Colored Days (1996)
Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! (1998)


Dr. Seuss National Memorial http://www.catinthehat.org
Notable Biographies http://www.notablebiographies.com/Fi-Gi/Geisel-Theodor.html
Poetry Foundation http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/theodor-geisel


World War II

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  The Robinson Library > Linguistics, Languages, and Literatures > American Literature > 1900-1960

This page was last updated on 09/22/2015.

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