60 facts about the world of Dr. Seuss
March 2 is Dr. Seuss's birthday. In 2020, he would have been 116 years old.
Here are 60 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
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
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
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.
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
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.
30. These offensive drawings were not limited to war time propaganda. In 2019, researchers Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens published a paper in Research on Diversity in Youth Literature, documenting the author's long history of racist depictions of people of colour in magazine cartoons and advertisements. Their findings can be found here.
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.
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
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
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. Published in 1953, Seuss's book The Sneetches is used in classrooms today as an "anti-racist fable." However, researchers Ishizuka and Stephens' modern day interpretation of the story suggest the opposite. Their article indicates that the book, among other problematic views, promotes colorblindness, thereby disregarding the historical and long-ranging impact of racism.
45. 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
46. 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
47. Yertle the Turtle was based on Adolf Hitler.¹
48. 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
49. 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
50. 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."
51. He was the first person to win the Pulitzer Prize for writing children's books.¹
52. 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
53. Truax by Terri Birkett, the logging industry's response to The Lorax, was published in 1994 by the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association.¹
54. Oh, the Places You'll Go was the last book he published alive.¹
56. In 2010, Life Books named Seuss to their list of 100 People Who Changed the World.
57. Seuss has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
58. He won a Peabody Award for the animated specials How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Horton Hears a Who!.
60. A new previously unpublished Dr. Seuss story, Horse Museum, will be released posthumously on Sept. 3, 2019.
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.
- This fact list was first published in 2018. In 2019, it was updated, edited and revised from its original version.Mar 15, 2019 4:25 PM ET