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September 24, 2012

Posted Wednesday, September 26, 2012, at 12:07 PM

THIS DAY IN HISTORY:

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

-- Dr. Seuss

On September 24, 1991, Dr. Suess passed away at the age of 87:

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He published his first children's book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, under the name of Dr. Seuss in 1937. Next came a string of best sellers, including The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. His rhymes and characters are beloved by generations.

Geisel was born to Theodor Robert Geisel, a successful brew master, and Henrietta Seuss Geisel. At age 18, Geisel left home to attend Dartmouth College, where he became the editor in chief of its humor magazine, Jack-O-Lantern. When Geisel and his friends were caught drinking in his dorm room one night, in violation of Prohibition law, he was kicked off the magazine staff, but continued to contribute to it using the pseudonym "Seuss." After graduating from Dartmouth, Geisel attended Oxford University in England, with plans to eventually become a professor. While at Oxford, he met his future wife, Helen Palmer, whom he married in 1927. That same year, he dropped out of Oxford, and the couple moved back to the United States.

Upon returning to America, Geisel decided to pursue cartooning full-time, and his articles and illustrations were published in numerous magazines, including Life and Vanity Fair. A cartoon that he published in the July 1927 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, his first using the pen name "Seuss," landed him a staff position at the New York weekly Judge. He then worked for Standard Oil in the advertising department, where he spent the next 15 years. His ad for Flit, a common insecticide, became nationally famous.

Around this time, Viking Press offered him a contract to illustrate a children's collection called Boners. The book sold poorly, but it gave him a break into children's literature. Geisel's first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected 27 times before it was finally published by Vanguard Press in 1937.

At the start of World War II, Geisel began contributing weekly political cartoons to the liberal publication PM Magazine. In 1942, too old for the World War II draft, Geisel served with Frank Capra's Signal Corps, making animated training films and drawing propaganda posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board.

Following the war, Geisel and Helen purchased an old observation tower in La Jolla, California, where he would write for at least eight hours a day, taking breaks to tend his garden. He wrote and published several children's books in the coming years, including If I Ran the Zoo and Horton Hears a Who!

A major turning point in Geisel's career came when, in response to a 1954 Life magazine article that criticized children's reading levels, Houghton Mifflin and Random House asked him to write a children's primer using 220 vocabulary words. The resulting book, The Cat in the Hat, was published in 1957 and was described by one critic as a "tour de force." The success of The Cat in the Hat cemented Geisel's place in children's literature.

In the years that followed, Geisel wrote many more books, both in his new simplified-vocabulary style and using his older, more elaborate technique, and including such favorites as Green Eggs and Ham and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In 1966, with the help of eminent cartoonist Chuck Jones, The Grinch was adapted into an animated film.

After Geisel passed away, In 1997, the Art of Dr. Seuss project was launched. Today, limited-edition prints and sculptures of Geisel's artworks can be found at galleries alongside the works of Rembrandt, Picasso and Miro. Sixteen of his books are on Publishers Weekly's list of the "100 Top-Selling Hardcover Children's Books of All-Time."

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-3629. You can also email me at Kent.Hampton@house.mo.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.



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