Dr. Seuss

If you grew up in America, you almost certainly grew up listening to the stories of Dr. Seuss (born Theodor Seuss Geisel). He was born in 1904 in Massachusetts, the grandchild of two sets of German immigrants.

Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and his many books.

Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and his many books.
World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna.
Public domain image, courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.


He took his first art class in high school, and also managed his school soccer team. He enrolled in Dartmouth College, eventually earning the position of editor-in-chief of the Dartmouth humor magazine, the Jack-O-Lantern. It was here he met his big inspiration for writing, his professor W. Pressey.

Before Prohibition was outlawed, Thedor was forced to resign his position at the Jack-O-Lantern after he was caught drinking. He took on the the pseudonym "Seuss" to keep writing. He began to pursue a PhD in English literature from Oxford, but gave it up to pursue a career in drawing.

Art Career

He quit Oxford and sent his work to as many magazines and publishers he could. He finally got his career in drawing when his first work was published in The Saturday Evening Post. His career as an advertisement artist grew enough to support he and his wife Helen through the Great Depression.

Geisel was fond of traveling and felt that it helped his creativity. He and his wife traveled to over 30 countries together. It was on one of these travels when the rhythm of the ship they were aboard inspired his first poem-turned-book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which was rejected by more than 20 publishers before an old friend agreed to publish it. His poem was well accepted, and he penned 4 more over a three-year period, as well as a couple books.

World War II

At the outbreak of World War II, his art was put to use as a political cartoonist, criticizing both political leaders and those who opposed war; he called out racism and Congress members; and he exhorted Americans to support Teddy Roosevelt and the war effort, which he did by drawing posters and with his pen before he felt that wasn't enough. He joined the Army and was commander of the Animation Department, producing American propoganda and training films. He won 2 Academy Awards for these.

After the war, Theodor Seuss Geisel moved to California and began writing children's books. He dabbled in film, but failed miserably on his first try and gave it up.

Children's Author

In 1954, Life reported that school children's illiteracy was rising, due to their boring texts. With a list of 348 essential words, William Spaulding, a directer of education, asked Seuss to "bring back a book children can't put down." The result of this came 9 months later with The Cat in the Hat, followed shortly by a few more.

Even when he began to write children's books, his political views were woven in symbolism throughout many of them. Though he claimed "kids can see a moral coming a mile off," many of his books had a political agenda. Click on the links below to read about them individually.

The Cat, from <cite>The Cat in the Hat</cite>

The Cat, from The Cat in the Hat, Copyright © 2010 Random House LLC

Seuss died in 1991.

  • Horton Hears a Who! (1955)—an allegory for the Hiroshima bombing and the American post-war occupation of Japan
  • The Cat in the Hat (1957)—symbolism regarding sin and conscience
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957)—criticizing materialism and consumerism of the Christmas season, admittedly not as subtle as his other works
  • Yertle the Turtle (1958)—Seuss specifically wrote Yertle as a representation of Hitler
  • The Sneetches (1961)—clearly about racial inequality
  • The Lorax (1971)—a criticism of consumerism and a call for environmentalism
  • The Butter Battle Book (1984)—about the arms race