Dr. Seuss


The responses that Ted gave to the commonly asked question, “Where do you get your ideas?” varied, so no one really knew what to believe. He would often say out in left field. If he couldn’t find them there, he would travel to an Arizona desert, where he would pick the brain of a retired thunderbird. He said he had no idea where the thunderbird got its ideas. One time, he told an audience he collected all of his ideas in Switzerland, in a town called Zybilknov. “I go there every year on the fourth of August to have my cuckoo clock fixed,” he explained. “While I am waiting for my clock, I walk the streets of the village and talk to some of its strange inhabitants. That is where I get the ideas for my characters in my books.”


He began his career as a little known editorial cartoonist in the 1920’s. The Saturday Evening Post and other publications published some of his early pieces. He contributed anywhere from three to five political cartoons each week to PM magazine. One cartoon for Judge, a New York weekly changed his life. It was a knight lying on a bed, obviously exhausted. A dragon comes up and pokes his head in the knights face and the knight says, “Darn it all, another dragon! And just after I’d sprayed the whole castle with Flit.”


He also spent some of his time advertising. He advertised for Standard Oil to promote Flit, a common bug repellent, and Judge. He advertised for over fifteen years, primarily with Standard.  


Along with cartooning and advertising, Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated forty-four wonderful books, translated into fifteen different languages. Thirty of those books have been adapted for TV or a movie. Two hundred million copies were sold by the time he died. When Ted started a book, he would make his first drawing on tissue or tracing paper.  He would pen in the pictures and words for one page and then move on. After he’d written a book over and over, he would then use heavy paper and felt tip pens. His first book, “And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” was published in 1937. It sold for one dollar, which was expensive at the time. Some of the all time favorite books he has written are “Green Eggs and Ham”, “Fox in Socks”, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”, and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.  The classic story “Green Eggs and Ham” was written because of a bet. His editor, Bennett Cerf, bet him fifty dollars that he couldn’t write a book using only fifty simple words. Ted proved to his editor and the world that he could. His editor never paid him the fifty dollars. Ted wrote “The Grinch” because he didn’t like how people cared more about the material gifts they received at Christmas than the love. To encourage both children and adults to go places, try new things, and take chances he wrote the book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”. In 1957 when he brought forth “The Cat in the Hat”, a new era of children’s books was born. He introduced new characters and soon, “The Cat in the Hat” became one of the best-known titles in the world. By the time Dr. Seuss was 75, he had forty-two books in print, and eighty-two million copies were already sold. Though famous for his children’s books, “You’re Only Old Once”, subtitled ‘A Book for Obsolete Children’, written for adults, was published in 1986. It made the New York Times adult best-seller list and thirteen hundred people stood in line at a New York bookstore to get his autograph on the book. “The Butter Battle Book” was introduced at his eightieth birthday celebration. One of his more controversial books because of its similarities to current military events, it was written to raise awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons. It had the honor of being the only children’s book to appear for six months on the New York Times best-seller list for adults.


Dr. Seuss made very few movies. Many of his books were made into movies and have put a smile of some kind on someone’s face. In the 1940’s he made cartoon-like instructional videos for soldiers during WWII. The movies turned out to be quite helpful with training the soldiers despite being in cartoon form.


Dr. Seuss created three dimensional sculptures in the 1930’s using real animal parts such as beaks, antlers, and horns, from animals that had died at the Forest Park Zoo. He started his collection in his New York apartment, and it is now part of both private and public collections including the University of California San Diego. Some of his creatures included the Kangaroo Bird, Semi-Normal Green-Lidded Fawn and the Mulberry Street Unicorn.