Dr. Seuss

Theodore Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 2, 1904. He

graduated from Dartmouth in 1925, with a BA in English literature. He went to Europe

after to study at Oxford. He then went to Sorbonne and then to the University of Vienna.

He planned on getting a doctorate in literature, but the experience was less than ideal so

he returned to the United States. (LeBeau 20)

In 1927 Geisel married Helen Palmer who was a classmate of his from Oxford.

She was also a children’s author, until her death in 1967. (Diehl 169)

Theodore started working for a magazine, Judge, in 1927. He worked there

doing cartoons and humorous ads for them. He was also submitting his work to other

magazines such as Life, Vanity Fair, and Liberty. In his ads he made a reference to an

insecticide called Flit, which were noticed and led to a tight contract to draw ads for Flit.

The contract said he couldn’t do anything else. In his ad he used the saying “Quick Henry,

The Flit!”. He did that for 17 years, which gained him national exposure. He only did that

in the summer though, since insecticide is a seasonal thing. He went to an attorney and

found that the only thing his contract didn’t forbid him to do was children’s books.

Geisel’s first children’s book came about in 1936 when he was on vacation in

Europe. He was listening to the rhythm of the ship’s engines, he came up with “And to

think I saw it on Mulberry Street.” It was rejected by 43 publishers that he showed it to.

Eventually a friend published it for him and it went on to at least moderate success.
(Morgan 43)

During World War II he joined the army and was sent to Hollywood. Captain

Geisel would write for Frank Capra’s Signal Corps Unit, which he won the Legion of

Merit for. He also did documentaries such as Hitler Lives and Design for Death, which

won him an Oscar. He worked on the 5,000 Fingers of Mr. T., which was something that

he didn’t enjoy. Geisel also created General Mc-Boing Boing while he was in Hollywood,

he sold it to UPA. John Hulbey designed and won an Academy award for it. Theodore

won an Oscar for it, though he had little to no part in General Mc-Boing Boing. (Diehl

In May 1954, Life magazine published an article about illiteracy among school

children. it said that children were having trouble to read because their books were

boring. Geisel’s publisher, from Houghton Mifflin sent him a copy of a 400 word list and

asked him to cut the list down to 250 words, which was the publisher’s idea of how many

words a child could absorb and write a book using the words. Nine months later, Geisel

finished the book using only 220 words, which was The Cat in the Hat, it went on to

instant success. The book used outrageous illustrations and playful sounds, and rhyming

to teach basic reading skills. (MacDonald 12)

In 1960, Bennett Cerf bet Theodore fifty dollars that he couldn’t write a book

using only 50 words. The book that Geisel came out with was Green Eggs and Ham.

Cerf never paid the bet. (Bedno)

His first wife Helen Palmer Geisel died in 1967. He remarried to Audrey Stone

Diamond in 1968. Audrey had two teenage daughters who grew up on Dr. Seuss books,

they really respected his work. They had a house on top of Mt. Soladad, in La Jolla,

California, the view was one that inspired a person.

Many of his inspirations came about by accident. Horton Hatches the Egg

happened while he was sitting at his desk in his studio with the window opened and a

sketch of an elephant landed on another sketch of a tree. (Diehl 170)

The only idea that he consciously worked on was for The Lorax. He was mad at

the ecological problem and wanted to do something about it that the children could

understand. (Diehl 173)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas was written in about two months. One month on

the book and another month just on the last page. The idea of the Grinch came from

annoyance with the tradition of Christmas. The fact that stores had Christmas decorations

out in July bothered him. (Morgan