Dr. Seuss Day

60 facts about the wonderful world of Dr. Seuss

The beloved children's author was born on March 2, 1904. To honour Dr. Seuss's birthday, here are 60 surprising facts about him.
Dr Seuss, whose real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel, sits at his drafting table in his home office in La Jolla, California, on April 25, 1957. (Gene Lester/Getty Images)

March 2 is Dr. Seuss's birthday! In 2018, he would have been 114 years old. But he will probably live forever in libraries around the world, thanks to his beloved books.

CBC Books has complied a list of 60 interesting and surprising facts you might not know about the children's author.

1. Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Mass.¹ 

2. Seuss attributes his love of verse to his mother. When he was a child, she would make up rhymes based on pie flavours to entertain him.¹

3. His father was a master brewer and ran one of the largest brewing companies in New England. But when Prohibition took effect in 1920, the brewery closed down.

4. After the brewery closed, Dr. Seuss's father began running the local zoo. Seuss liked to visit his dad at work and when he got home he would try to draw the animals he saw on his walls.¹

Dr. Seuss shakes hands with his character, The Cat in the Hat, in Louisiana in 1988. (Associated Press/drseussart.com/biochild)

You can see examples of these sculptures here

6. Seuss's father would dream up complicated inventions in his spare time, like the "Silk-Stocking-Back-Seam-Wrong-Detecting Mirror."¹

7. Seuss attended Dartmouth from 1921-1925, where he was a contributor and editor of the college's humour magazine, The Jack-O-Lantern. 

8. Seuss was banned from The Jack-O-Lantern after being caught with alcohol during Prohibition. To subvert this, he submitted cartoons under the names T. Seuss and Seuss. That's how he first came to use his famous pen name.

9. Seuss was voted "Least Likely to Succeed" by his classmates at Dartmouth.¹ 

Theodor Seuss Geisel is Dr. Seuss. (Courtesy of Dr. Seuss Enterprises/earlymoments.com and thoughtco.com)

11. Seuss added 'Dr.' to his name as consolation to his father, who had hoped he would practice medicine.

12. An honorary doctorate was granted to him by his alma mater, Dartmouth, in 1956.

13. "Zoyce" is the German pronunciation of Seuss, however, readers would say "Soose."¹ 

14. Seuss liked that "Soose"  rhymed with Mother Goose, so he adopted the pronunciation.¹

Taylor Momsen plays Cindy Lou Who in the 2000 film adaptation of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (Getty Images/Handout/drseussart.com/bioearly)

16. Judge, the magazine that launched Seuss's career, sometimes couldn't pay their staff. They would give out free samples of soda, shaving cream and nail clippers instead.¹ 

17. Seuss was the creator of a wildly successful bug spray ad involving the catchphrase "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" The punchline led to a 17-year advertising campaign for Flit bug spray.

18. Seuss began creating children's books because it was one of the few creative projects that was not prohibited by his advertising contract.¹

19. The Pocket Book of Boners was the very first book released under the pseudonym Seuss. The book is a collection of "boners" — silly errors found in classroom papers. By 1945, it had sold 1.34 million copies.

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street is Dr. Seuss's first children's book. (Penguin Random House/crixeo.com/dr-seuss)

21. His debut book was rejected 27 times before it finally went to the printing press.

22. Supposedly, Seuss would write and discard between 500-1,000 pages during the first draft of a picture book.¹  

23. He reportedly would write every day for eight hours.

24. Seuss became dedicated to creating books for early readers after stumbling across an article about American children having trouble learning to read.¹

The Seven Lady Godivas was a flop and Seuss went back to writing children's books. (Penguin Random House/crixeo.com/dr-seuss)

26. In 1942, Seuss began creating political posters encouraging America to enter the war.

27. During the Second World War, he enlisted in the army and was sent to Hollywood to produce propaganda cartoons featuring the military misadventures of Private SNAFU.¹

28. Seuss's work has earned two Academy Awards. An adapted version of a wartime training video about Japanese culture, titled Design for Death, won best documentary feature in 1948. A cartoon based on Seuss's story Gerald McBoing-Boing won best animated short film in 1951.¹ 

29. Seuss was awarded the Legion of Merit for his efforts during the war. However, he was regretful about some of his cartoons, which depicted Japanese Americans in offensive caricatured styles.

Seuss, who was working as a correspondent for Life magazine, said many of the children hoped to become aviators, astronauts and scientists. (AFP/Stringer/crixeo.com/dr-seuss)

31. Horton Hears a Who! was inspired by Seuss's time in Japan. It was published in 1954. Seuss dedicated the book to Mitsugi Nakamura, the dean of Doshisha University in Kyoto, who helped him while he toured schools across the country interviewing children.

32. Seuss met his wife, Helen Palmer, while they attended Oxford University in 1926. He was working on a M.A. in English, but he never completed his studies.¹ 

33. Seuss married Helen in 1927. They moved into a walk-up apartment in New York City, where Seuss worked to establish himself as a cartoonist.

34. He and Helen were unable to have children.¹

Dr. Seuss talks to children at a Barnes & Noble in New York on Feb. 27, 1986. (Associated Press/Who Was Dr. Seuss?)

36. Helen ran almost all of Seuss's business matters.¹ 

37. After WWII, he and Helen moved into an old observation tower on a mountain outside La Jolla, Calif.¹

38. Seuss and Helen ran an imprint of Random House called Beginner Books.¹

39. After Helen died in 1967, Seuss remarried a year later. His second wife, Audrey Stone Dimond, had never heard of Seuss and assumed he was a medical doctor.¹

Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States. He served between 1901-1909. (Hulton Archive/Stringer/Who Was Dr. Seuss?)

41. Seuss's phone number was one digit off from the local fish store. Seuss would sometimes send the caller a drawing of the fish they ordered, instead of redirecting them to the store.¹

42. Seuss is credited with inventing the word "nerd." It first appeared in If I Ran the Zoo in 1950.¹

43. Seuss had a licence plate that says "GRINCH".¹ 

44. The Sneetches and Other Stories was based on Seuss's understanding of the Black civil rights movement in the United States during the 1960s.¹

Dr. Seuss's The Sneetches and Other Stories subtly tackles issues of intolerance and discrimination. (Penguin Random House/Who Was Dr. Seuss?)

46. Green Eggs and Ham was written on a $50 bet. Random House co-founder Bennett Cerf challenged the author to write a book with only 50 words and Seuss delivered.¹

47. The Butter Battle Book, published in 1984, was the first children's book to spend six months on the New York Times' adult bestsellers list.¹ 

48. Yertle the Turtle was based on Adolf Hitler.¹

49. Seuss discovered the Berenstain Bears creators and supposedly edited and re-edited their first book before publishing it. He pushed the authors to connect more with the characters, asking questions like, "What kind of pipe tobacco does Papa Bear smoke?"¹

50. Seuss wrote the 1953 fantasy film The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. The movie was a commercial failure, but has since become a cult classic.¹

51. Seuss was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for "his special contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America's children and their parents."

52. He was the first person to win the Pulitzer Prize for writing children's books.¹

53. In 1989, the logging industry wanted The Lorax removed from school reading lists. This was the first time one of Seuss's books faced censorship.¹

54. Truax by Terri Birkett, the logging industry's response to The Lorax, was published in 1994 by the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association.¹

Dr. Seuss's portrait hangs on a wall at The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in his hometown of Springfield, Mass. (Associated Press/biography.com/Who Was Dr. Seuss?)

56. Oh, the Places You'll Go was the last book he published.¹

57. In 2010, Life Books named Seuss to their list of 100 People Who Changed the World.

58. Seuss has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

59. He won a Peabody Award for the animated specials How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Horton Hears a Who!.

Readings of Dr. Seuss's stories have won three Grammys. (RCA Records/grammy.com)

Marvin Miller won two Grammys: in 1965 for his album Dr. Seuss Presents: Fox in Socks & Green Eggs and Ham and in 1966 for Dr. Seuss Presents: If I Ran The Zoo & Sleep Book. Boris Karloff won in 1967 for Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

¹From Who Was Dr. Seuss? by Janet B. Pascal ©2011, published by Penguin.

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