About Dr. Seuss
ABOUT DR. SEUSS
"The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."
~ from I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! by Dr. Seuss
Yes, there really was a Dr. Seuss. He was not an official doctor, but his prescription for fun has delighted readers for more than 75 years. Theodor Seuss Geisel (Ted) was born on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts and was raised by loving and encouraging parents.
Ted's father, TR, held an honorary position on the Springfield parks board, which supervised the Springfield Zoo. This zoo was a beloved part of Ted's childhood. His parents would often take him there, where he would sketch the animals. Early on, Ted's mother became his "accomplice in crime," encouraging him to draw animal caricatures on the plaster walls of his bedroom. Only later in Ted's life, when TR became the superintendent of parks, did he also become an unexpected resource, who now aided and abetted his son's artistic efforts. Zoo animals that had met their demise lived on as their bills, horns and antlers were shipped to Ted's New York apartment to become exotic beaks and headdresses on his bizarre taxidermy sculptures.
As a young girl Ted's mother, Henrietta Seuss Geisel, sold pies in her family's bakery, repeatedly listing the day's bill of fare for customers. When Ted and his sister, Marnie, were small, their mother would softly chant this long litany of pies at bedtime to lull them to sleep. Ted would later tell his biographers that his mother was the person most responsible "for the rhythms in which I write and the urgency with which I do it".
Ted attended Dartmouth College and by all accounts was a typical, mischievous college student, however he worked hard to become the editor-in-chief of Jack-O-Lantern, Dartmouth's humor magazine. His reign as editor came to an abrupt end when Ted and his friends were caught throwing a party that did not coincide with school policy. Geisel continued to contribute to Jack-O, merely signing his work as "Seuss." This is the first record of his using the pseudonym Seuss.
University of Oxford
After graduation from Dartmouth, Ted left for Oxford intending to become a professor (he couldn't think of anything else to do with an Oxford education). Sitting in his Anglo-Saxon for Beginners class, his doodling caught the eye of a fellow American student named Helen Palmer. Helen suggested that he should become an artist instead of a professor. He took her advice and eventually he took her hand in marriage as well.
Ted decided that he could make a living as a cartoonist, and was thrilled when one of his submissions was published in The Saturday Evening Post. His work caught the eye of the editor for Judge, a New York weekly, and Ted was offered a staff position. Many of the characters from these sketches resemble the more familiar characters of his books: Horton-esque elephants, turtles that look like Yertle, and Nizzard-like birds.
World War II
Early in 1941, deeply troubled by the war in Europe, Ted showed one of his unpublished politically charged cartoons to Virginia Schoales, a New York friend who was working on the "popular front" tabloid newspaper PM. "Zinny" introduced Ted to Ralph Ingersoll, PM's editor, who instantly made Geisel the paper's editorial cartoonist, printing his first cartoon on January 30, 1941. Ted would not write another children's book for seven years. At 38, Ted enlisted, serving in Frank Capra's Signal Corps (U.S. Army) making movies relative to the war effort. Animator Chuck Jones met Ted as a civilian overseer of Frank Capra's unit and the two remained friends for life. As Ted was introduced to the art of animation he developed a series of animated training films, which featured Private Snafu. Ted and Chuck would later collaborate on the animated Grinch TV special and the Horton Hears a Who! movie. The Grinch TV special has aired every year since its debut in 1966!
In 1937 Ted presented his first manuscript for a children's book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, to 27 publishing houses and received 27 rejections. Discouraged, Ted literally bumped into an old Dartmouth friend who happened to work at Vanguard Press. To the great fortune of generations to come, Vanguard published Mulberry Street.
Twenty years later, Ted was asked to write a children's primer using 220 new-reader vocabulary words. The result was The Cat in the Hat, which solidified Ted's career as a children's book author and illustrator. According to a 2001 Publisher's Weekly study, 6 of the 10 best-selling children's books of all time were Dr. Seuss books. Dr. Seuss authored and illustrated 44 children's books during his lifetime.
Ted was concerned about the environment as a whole; he wanted manufacturers, businesses and individuals to take responsibility for their actions. The Lorax, published in 1971, weaves a familiar tale of a good thing gone wrong: the irresponsible, ambitious Once-ler builds a huge, thriving business at the expense of Truffula trees and the creatures who depend on them. Remaining true to the Seussian style, Ted managed to shame the current generation and challenge the next generation by demonstrating the pitfalls of progress . . . "unless"
The Butter Battle Book, perhaps the most controversial of all his books, was written in response to the arms buildup and nuclear war threat during the Reagan administration. Published in 1984, Butter Battle sheds light on the growing threat of war between the Yooks and the Zooks. The threat stems solely from the way Yooks and Zooks choose to eat their bread: butter-side up and butter-side down, respectively. The story ends with a blank page, leaving a cliffhanger ending that is open to interpretation. For six months, Butter Battle remained on The New York Times' Bestseller List . . . for adults.
After Ted's first wife Helen passed away, he married longtime friend Audrey on June 21, 1968. Life with Audrey brought a sense of freshness and renewal to Ted, and he became more active in his community. The Geisels held parties that often took on lives of their own; Ted's penchant for funny hats, for example, would weave its way into a dinner party theme or two (and guests were expected to wear their funniest headgear or risk Ted assigning one from his personal collection!).
Never one to interfere directly with her husband's affairs, Audrey, a former nurse, saw her role as that of a caretaker and chief supporter, a role she continues to this day as the head of Dr. Seuss Enterprises.
Some 600 million copies of his books, translated into 17 different languages, have found their way into homes and hearts around the world. One in four children in the United States receives a Dr. Seuss book as his/her first book and four generations have learned to read with Dr. Seuss.
In 1993, Ted's widow Audrey founded Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) to protect and monitor the use of Dr. Seuss's characters for licensing purposes. Mrs. Geisel oversees the selection process of each project, always considering Ted's wishes and dreams.
Dr. Seuss's children's book illustrations brought a visual realization to his fantastic and imaginary worlds. However, his artistic talent went far beyond the printed page, as in his Secret Art works - the paintings and sculptures he did at night for himself that he rarely exhibited during his lifetime. Ted always dreamed of sharing these works with his fans and asked entrusted his wife, Audrey, to carry out his wishes once he was gone.
In 1997, this dream was realized when The Art of Dr. Seuss project was launched. For the first time, collectors were able to see and acquire lithographs, serigraphs and sculptures reproduced from Geisel's original drawings and paintings. In her introduction to the collection Audrey Geisel wrote, "I remember telling Ted that there would come a day when many of his paintings would be seen and he would thus share with his fans another facet of himself - his private self. That day has come. I am glad."
This historic project has opened the world's eyes to the unique artistic talent of Dr. Seuss and, as such, galleries, museums and collectors have helped make Audrey Geisel's promise, and Dr. Seuss's dream, a reality.
After devoting 53 years to creating entertaining and instructive books, the Good Doctor taught all that he could teach. Theodor Seuss Geisel passed away on September 24, 1991, at the age of 87. As a permanent reminder to the reading public, the last line in Ted's final book, Oh, the Places You'll Go!, issues the following charge:
"You're off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So . . . get on your way!"
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