20 Facts About the Famous Children’s Book Author

Read, if you choose, about a doctor called Seuss, born (so they say) many years ago today. So sit back, relax, and enjoy these amazing Dr. Seuss facts.

1. Born Theodore Seuss Geisel in 1904, as a young child Geisel frequently visited the zoo, which his father helped oversee as the Superintendent of Parks in Springfield, Massachusetts.

2. He majored in English at Dartmouth College and wrote for a college humor paper called The Jack-O-Lantern. Caught imbibing alcohol on campus during Prohibition, he was barred from writing for the paper but secretly continued under the pen name Seuss.

3. He would first write under the name Dr. Seuss for a humor magazine called The Judge.

4. Geisel himself pronounced “Seuss” in a way that rhymed with “choice,” though most people now pronounce the word as rhyming with “moose.”

5. He would later also publish under pennames Theo. LeStieg and Rosetta Stone.

6. After graduation, he studied at Oxford for a graduate degree in philosophy. He met his future wife there, Helen Marion Palmer, who persuaded him to abandon academia and take up drawing as a career.

7. She also wrote children’s books and published under her maiden name.

8. Geisel supported himself and his wife during the Great Depression by illustrating advertisements for Standard Oil, General Electric and NBC. His "Quick Henry, the Flit!" insecticide ads became nationally famous.

9. His first book, 1937's "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," was rejected over 30 times by publishers.

10. During World War II, Geisel drew cartoons for the leftist NYC newpaper PM. Geisel supported the war effort and lampooned Hitler and Mussolini in his cartoons. In 1942, he drew posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board.

11. Geisel joined the military in 1943 became commander of the Animation Dept of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces, where he wrote propaganda films.

12. Geisel had a hand in two Academy Award winning documentaries – "Hitler Lives" (1946) and "Design for Death" (1947). He also wrote the story for "Gerald McBoing-Boing," which won the Oscar for Best Animated Short in 1950.

13. In 1953, he wrote his only feature film, "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T." Seuss considered the film a “debaculous fiasco” and neglected to mention it in his official biography.

14. After the war he moved to La Jolla, California, and continued writing children’s books. 

15. In 1950, he published one of his most enduring works, "Horton Hears a Who." In the book, Horton the Elephant continually repeats “a person’s a person no matter how small.” This led the anti-abortion movement to co-opt the book. Geisel threatened to sue one pro-life group who used the phrase on their stationery.

16. Two of Geisel’s most beloved classics, "The Cat in the Hat" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," were both published in 1957. Geisel deliberately restricted the vocabulary he used in creating his works, and said "The Cat in the Hat" came about because “cat” and “hat” were the first two rhyming words that appeared on a list of 223 easy-to-read words sent by his publisher.

17. In all Geisel would publish 44 books during his lifetime, the last being "Oh, the Places You'll Go." A popular gift during graduation season, the book sells in excess of 300,000 copies a year. In a 2000 list of the top selling children’s books, Dr. Seuss occupied 16 of the top 100 slots, with his bestselling work being "Green Eggs and Ham."

18. Geisel also wrote one book for adults, "The Seven Lady Godivas," published in 1939, which was a commercial and critical failure. Later in life he said, “I’d rather write for kids. They’re more appreciative. Adults are just obsolete children, and to hell with them.”

19. Geisel’s first wife died by suicide in 1967. He remarried a year later, to Audrey Stone Dimond, but fathered no children of his own. “You have them,” he was fond of saying, “I’ll entertain them.”

20. Geisel died of throat cancer Sept. 24, 1991. His birthday, March 2, has been adopted as National Read Across America Day.


Related Reading:

A Seuss-tacular Story

Dr. Seuss Quotes Reflect Life's Magic

New Tributes to Dr. Seuss and Jim Henson

Dr. Seuss and the Muppets