Today In History: Dr. Seuss Is Born
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
-Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
The acclaimed poet, author and illustrator was born on March 2nd, 1904 and died on September 24th, 1991 after publishing over 60 children’s books and cartoons. Dr. Seuss died at the age of 87 in La Jolla, California at “The Tower” observatory. His beginnings began in Springfield, Massachusetts with his parents and older sister named Marnie.
The character Dr. Seuss was created by a man born Theodore Seuss Geisel. His first known work was in Dartmouth college’s humorous magazine, the Jack-O-Lantern where Geisel first used “Seuss” as his pseudonym in 1925.
In 1926 Geisel attended Oxford where he attempted to earn his masters degree is English. After his brief stint at Oxford Geisel married his first love Helen Palmer and moved to New York City. Unfortunately the couple soon learned she could not have children as Geisel continued to build his career. He went on to publish his first book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street in 1937.
In 1955, Dartmouth gave Dr. Seuss his first honorary doctorate and he would eventually receive several more honorary degrees, including one from Princeton.
Dr. Seuss is most well known for The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and many more rhyming tales. A little known fact is that the name Seuss is actually pronounced zoice and not soose. Seuss is a Bavarian name and was his mothers maiden name as well as his middle name. Geisel’s parents emigrated from Bavaria, which is a part of modern day Germany during the 19th century, which explains the true pronunciation.
Many don’t know that Dr. Seuss, before becoming a household name made majority of his income working in the advertising industry. He used his cartoons in campaigns for advertisers of mosquito repellant, Ford, Holly Sugar, NBC and General Electric to name a few companies.
Later in life after Dr. Seuss’s first wife passed away he remarried Audrey Stone Dimond in the year 1967 and inherited two stepdaughters.
Geisel lived during a time of political unrest around the world as WWII began. Thus, Dr. Suess’s cartoons made fun of tyrannical leaders such as Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Hideki Tojo. The cartoons outspokenly opposed fascism, criticized discrimination against Jews and against African Americans during a time when discrimination was both legal and common.
For example, Yertle the Turtle, which was written in 1958 was inspired by the rise of Hitler and the Nazi’s during WWII. Dr. Seuss wrote, “That plain little turtle below in the stack. That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack, decided he’d taken enough. And he had. And that plain little lad got a little bit mad. And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing. He burped! And his burp shook the throne of the king!”
Likewise, The Sneetches, written in 1961 creatively opposed anti-semitism. The story was a story in which star-bellied Sneetches discriminated against star-less Sneetches. At the story’s end, they learn that “Sneetches are Sneetches and no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches,” wrote Dr. Seuss.
Dr. Seuss’s children’s books show readers that even the smallest of small or large, apparently insignificant person has an important role to play in this world. He encouraged imagination beyond what that world teaches and used his gifts to inspire generations to both read, write and think outside of the box.
After Dr. Seuss’s death he was honored with a public statue, joining Hans Christian Andersen, Astrid Lindgren, and Mark Twain as one of the very few writers for children. The statue is located in a National Memorial Sculpture Garden in Dr. Seuss’s hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts. You can go and see that a bronze Ted Geisel sits in a chair next to the Cat in the Hat.
Ted Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss is also honored annually with Read Across America Day. It is a nationwide reading celebration that takes place annually on Dr. Seuss’s birthday. It is a time where across the country, thousands of schools, libraries and community centers participate in bringing together children, teenagers and books.
To the delight of many, in 2015, Random House Children’s Books announced its plans to publish a new Dr. Seuss book entitled What Pet Should I Get? This development came after a manuscript and sketches were found by the author’s widow, Audrey Stone, in the couple’s home.
Dr. Seuss has sold over 200 million copies of children’s books in multiple languages worldwide. His books are read at graduations, put onto greeting cards and even made into movies.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way! You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.”
-Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!