Dr. SeussDr. Seuss is the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel (March 2, 1904 - September 24, 1991) who was an American writer and cartoonist best known for his collection of children's books.
Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, graduated from Dartmouth College in 1925, and entered Lincoln College, Oxford intending to earn a doctorate in literature. At Oxford, however, he met Helen Palmer, wedded her in 1927, and returned to the United States. He began submitting humorous articles and illustrations to Judge (a humor magazine), The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Vanity Fair, and Liberty. He became nationally famous from his advertisements for Flit, a common insecticide at the time. His slogan, "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" became a popular catchphrase; Seuss supported himself and his wife through the Great Depression by drawing advertising for General Electric, NBC, Standard Oil, and many other companies.
In 1936, while he sailed again to Europe, the rhythm of the ship's engines inspired the poem that became his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.
As World War II began, Geisel turned to political cartoons, drawing over 400 in two years. In 1942 he worked drawing posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board. In 1943 he joined the Army and was sent to Frank Capra's Signal Corps Unit in Hollywood, California, where he wrote films for the United States Armed Forces, including "Your Job in Germany," a 1945 propaganda film about peace in Europe after World War II, "Design for Death," a study of Japanese culture that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1948, and the Private Snafu series of army training films. His non-military films were also well-received; Gerald McBoing-Boing won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Animated) in 1950.
Although Geisel's political cartoons opposed the viciousness of Hitler and Mussolini, some depict Japanese Americans as traitors. One such cartoon appeared days before the internments started. These latter cartoons are troubling to some.
Life magazine published a report in May of 1954 on illiteracy among school children, which concluded that children were not learning to read because their books were boring. Accordingly, Geisel's publisher made up a list of 400 words he felt were important and asked Geisel to cut the list to 250 words and write a book using only those words. Nine months later, Geisel, using 220 of the words given to him, completed The Cat in the Hat.
In 1960 Bennett Cerf bet Geisel $50 that he couldn't write an entire book using only fifty words. The result was Green Eggs and Ham. Curiously, Cerf never paid him the $50.
These books achieved significant international success, and remain extremely popular in the present day.
He went on to write many children's books in a similar style, combining simple stories with rhythmic rhyming prose that children found easy and enjoyable to follow. Constructing the books with such minimalistic language was not easy, and reportedly Geisel labored for months crafting them.
He also wrote a book for adults called Oh, The Places You'll Go!
Readers may also be interested in The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss (New York: Random House, 1995). It contains many full-color reproductions of Geisel's private, previously unpublished artwork.