"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
― Dr. Seuss
― Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel on the March 2, 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts, to Theodor Robert Geisel and Henrietta Seuss. His father managed the family brewery and was later appointed to supervise Springfield's public park after the brewery closed down. He entered Springfield Central High School in 1917 and graduated in 1921.
While still being a freshman in Dartmouth College, Dr. Seuss joined the 'Dartmouth Jack-o-Lantern', which was the humor magazine, and eventually rose to the post of editor-in-chief. However, he was caught by the school administration while throwing a drinking party for his friends.
This was during the time of Prohibition, and so, the school wanted him to resign from his extracurricular activities. So, he began to sign his work with the pen name 'Seuss' and continued to work with the Jack-o-Lantern without the knowledge of the administration.
He then entered Lincoln College in Oxford to study for a PhD in literature. There he met Helen Palmer, who encouraged him to leave teaching and take up drawing. He married Helen in 1927. He dropped out of Oxford and went back to the United States of America. Later he accepted the job of a writer and illustrator for a humor magazine called 'The Judge'.
In the United States, Dr. Seuss began to submit his work (funny articles, illustrations, and cartoons) to several newspapers and magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Vanity Fair, and so on. He acquired much fame for his advertisement of 'Flit' (an insecticide) and the slogan "Quick, Henry, the Flit" became an instant hit.
During the time of the Great Depression, he supported his family by drawing advertisements for several well-known organizations such as General Electric, Standard Oil, NBC, etc.
In 1936, while returning from Europe in an ocean voyage, the ship's rhythm inspired him to write his first poem, which also became his first book, titled 'And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street'.
As per the records, it was rejected by around 20-40 publishers, and he was going home to burn the manuscript when he met an old classmate of Dartmouth, who led him to its publication Vanguard Press. He wrote four more books before World War II. When World War II started, he began to draw political cartoons for the New York newspaper 'PM'.
In 1942, he began to draw posters for the American Treasury Department and the War Production Board. He joined the army in 1943 and worked as the commander of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces.
There he wrote films like 'Your Job In Germany', 'Design For Death' (which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1947), and a series of adult army training films called 'Private Snafu'. He also wrote a non-military film called 'Gerald McBoing-Boing', which won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Animated) in 1930.
After the war, Dr. Seuss and his wife moved to La Jolla, California. He began writing children's books. The favorites among those were 'If I Ran The Zoo' in 1950, 'Scrambled Eggs Super!' in 1953, 'On Beyond Zebra' in 1955, 'If I Ran The Circus' in 1956, and 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' in 1956.
In 1954, a report appeared in 'Life' magazine, which documented the illiteracy in schools and concluded that children were not learning to read because the books that they had to read in school were boring.
Based on this, Dr. Seuss's publisher made a list of 348 important words and asked Dr. Seuss to cut the list down to 250 words and write a book using only those words. Using 220 of those words, he worked for six months and wrote 'The Cat in The Hat' (1950).
Following this trend and as a result of a bet between Bennett Cerf and Dr. Seuss, was the book 'Green Eggs and Ham', which used only 50 words. Both these books remain favorites all over the world as 'beginner books' for children who are learning to read. These books were very difficult for him to write as he struggled with the use of the limited vocabulary.
In 1956, he was awarded with an honorary doctorate. He added "Dr." to his pen name 'Seuss' because his father always wanted him to practice medicine. He went on to write several books in his lifetime.
Some of his well-known books are: 'Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories' (1958), 'Happy Birthday To You!' (1959), 'One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish' (1960), 'Dr. Seuss' ABC' (1963), 'I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew' (1965), 'There's a Wocket in my Pocket' (1974), 'Hunches in Bunches' (1982), 'I am NOT going to Get Up Today!' (1987), etc.
Poems and Art
Dr. Seuss was well-known for his use of poetic meters while writing his books. His favorite or characteristic poetic meters were: Anapestic Tetrameter, Trochaic Tetrameter, and a mixture of Trochaic and Iambic Tetrameters.
He would also illustrate his books himself. Before the war, he used shaded pencil drawings or watercolors. After the war, he began to use pen and ink. Initially, the illustrations were just black and white, but his later books used colors.
Later Life and Death
In 1967, during a very long struggle with illness and emotional pain caused because of his affair with Audrey Stone Dimond, Dr. Seuss's wife Helen, committed suicide. Dr. Seuss then married Dimond. He won a special Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for his contribution to the education of the children of America for over half a century.
On September 24, 1991, following many years of illness, Dr. Seuss passed away. Four years after his death, San Diego University's library was renamed Geisel Library in his honor and for his great contributions.
Although he spent his life writing several children's books, Dr. Seuss himself never had any children. Even after so many years, the fascination with his characters and words still continues.
Random House Children's Books announced in February 2015 that it had plans to publish the long lost manuscript and sketches of his new book named What Pet Should I Get?, which was found in 2013 by his widow.