Theodor Seuss Geisel — Beloved Author and Illustrator
We are all familiar with the work of Dr. Seuss — to some extent. Here I’m hoping to shed a little light on some of the aspects of his life and career that most of us are unaware of.
In 1904 Geisel was born the Grandson of German immigrants in Springfield Massachusetts. During WWI, as a 14-year-old Boy Scout, Ted was a top-seller of war bonds in his community. He was slated to be the last of 10 scouts to receive a reward directly from ex-president Teddy Roosevelt. However Roosevelt was only given 9 awards to dole out. When getting to Geisel, the president loudly asked “What’s this little boy doing here?” The scoutmaster then led the young master Geisel quickly offstage. Dr. Seuss had a marked aversion to public appearances from then on.
At the beginning of WWII Seuss created hundreds of political cartoons while editorial cartoonist for the New York City daily newspaper (later published in Dr. Seuss Goes to War).
In 1943 (as an army Captain) he helped produce animated training films, working closely with Chuck Jones and Friz Freeling of Warner Bros.
“The goal was to help enlisted men with weak literacy skills learn through animated cartoons (and also supplementary comic books). They featured simple language, racy illustrations, mild profanity, and subtle moralizing. Private SNAFU did everything wrong, so that his negative example taught basic lessons about secrecy, disease prevention, and proper military protocols.” –Wikipedia
In 1967 his first wife Helen committed suicide. She had been struggling for over a decade with partial paralysis due to Gullain-Barré syndrome. In addition she was suspicious that her husband was having an affair with a close friend, Audrey, who became his second wife. This from Helen’s suicide note: “I am too old and enmeshed in everything you do and are, that I cannot conceive of life without you. My going will leave quite a rumor, but you can say I was overworked and overwrought. Your reputation with your friends and fans will not be harmed.”
Dr Seuss had no children with either Helen or Audrey (but Audrey had two daughters of her own). Whenever asked how he could connect with children without having any of his own, he’s quoted as answering “You have ‘em, and I’ll entertain ‘em.”
Notes: Some of the above was garnered from a short History Channel article. Here it is in its entirety.
I chose not to address this directly in the blog, but Seuss had been criticized in the past for creating offensive caricatures. A blatantly racist cartoon of his from 1929 was recently up for auction. Here’s a short CNN article on the auction (now closed with no bids), and some of the fallout.