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Home > History > Dr. Seuss - Authors Series

Dr. Seuss - Authors Series

This page describes the life and times of Theodore Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss. It is part of our authors series.

Dr. Seuss Commemorative Stamp

Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father and grandfather were brewmasters in the city. His mother often soothed her children to sleep by reciting rhymes she remembered from when she was young. This inspired Dr. Seuss to create his own rhymes.

Memories from Seuss’s childhood in Springfield can be seen in his work. Drawings of Horton the Elephant walking along streams in the Jungle of Nool represent the watercourses in Springfield's Forest Park. The truck driven by Sylvester McMonkey McBean in The Sneetches represents the Knox tractor that he saw on the streets in Springfield. His first children's book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, includes a look-alike of Mayor Fordis Parker and police officers riding red motorcycles, the traditional color of Springfield's Indian Motorcycles.

Seuss left home in Springfield to attend Dartmouth College. He became editor-in-chief of the Jack-O-Lantern, Dartmouth's humor magazine. This is when he began signing his name as “Seuss.”

Seuss’s father wanted him to be a college professor, so he went to Oxford University in England after graduating from Dartmouth. While there he met Helen Palmer, who became his wife and a children’s author and editor. Seuss was unhappy at Oxford and he decided to tour Europe. Later, he returned to the U.S. to become a cartoonist. For 15 years he created advertising campaigns for Standard Oil. Occasionally, his work was published by The Saturday Evening Post and other publications.

Right before World War II, Seuss started contributing weekly political cartoons to a liberal magazine called PM Magazine. In order to give to the war effort, he served with Frank Capra's Signal Corps (U.S. Army) making training movies. At this time he was introduced to animation and developed a series of animated training films.

Viking Press offered Seuss a contract to illustrate a collection of children's sayings. The book wasn’t successful, but the illustrations got good reviews. This was his first big break into children's literature. In 1937, Seuss wrote and illustrated his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. It was rejected 27 times before it was published.

In 1957, the Houghton Mifflin company asked Seuss to write and illustrate a children's book using only 225 new-reader vocabulary words. At the time, he had a contract with Random House. The two companies agreed that Random house would obtain the trade publication rights and Houghton Mifflin would keep the school rights. This is how The Cat in the Hat was born. 

In 1967, Seuss’s wife died. Later, he married a friend named Audrey Stone. Audrey influenced his later books and became president of Dr. Seuss Enterprises. She died in 2018.

Dr. Seuss died on September 24, 1991. He had written and illustrated 44 children's books, including Green Eggs and Ham, Oh, the Places You'll Go, Fox in Socks, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. His books have been translated into more than 15 languages. Over 200 million copies have been sold around the world. 

Seuss’s books have inspired 11 children's television specials, a Broadway musical and a feature-length motion picture. His honors included two Academy awards, two Emmy awards, a Peabody award and the Pulitzer Prize.

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