Dr. Seuss was born Ted Geisel on March 2, 1904, meaning today would have been his 114th birthday! Check out these amazing facts you probably didn’t know about the man behind the Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham…
#1. Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham on a bet.
Dr. Seuss himself—a.k.a. Ted Geisel—pictured here with perhaps his most famous book. Photo source: WikiCommons
After some blockbuster hits like Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas in the late 1950’s, Seuss’ editor, Bennett Cerf, thought the Doctor could use a new challenge. He bet Seuss that he couldn’t write a book using just 50 words. Seuss said, “challenge accepted,” and the end result was Green Eggs and Ham: his best-selling book with over 8 million copies in circulation. The 50 words, in order, were: I am Sam; that; do not like; you green eggs and ham; them; would here or there; anywhere; in a house with mouse; eat box fox; car they; could; may will see tree; let me be; train on; say the dark; rain; goat; boat; so try may; if; good; thank. Talk about a tongue twister.
#2. His name rhymed with “voice,” not “moose.”
Sorry to spoil it for you folks, but you’ve been saying the guy’s name wrong your whole lives. Ted Geisel first adopted the moniker while at Dartmouth College after getting banned from writing for the school paper after being caught with gin in his dorm room. He went by “Seuss” to continue writing (and later added the “Doctor” because his dad always wanted him to go into medicine). But, he never intended the name to be pronounced the way we all do today. Instead, he wanted the name to go by the German pronunciation, which rhymed the name with “voice.” A friend even wrote a short poem to help with pronunciation:
You’re wrong as the deuce,
And you shouldn’t rejoice
If you’re calling him Seuss.
He pronounces it Soice (or Zoice).
#3. Writing and illustrating books for kids was not his only artistic job.
Dr. Seuss working on illustrations for How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Image Source: WikiCommons
During World War II, Seuss enlisted in the Army and became commander of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces. Not a bad gig, all things considered. Seuss was responsible for creating animated propaganda films. Before hitting it big in the children’s books universe, Seuss also held down a job as an artist for advertisements. Seuss drew cartoons for General Electric, NBC, Standard Oil, and Narragansett Brewing Company.
#4. Seuss was a big fan of symbolism.
You might pick up a Dr. Seuss book and think it’s all just a bunch of nursery rhymes about boisterous cats or multi-colored fish, but the truth is that there’s a lot more beneath the surface. Take Yertle the Turtle for example. A domineering turtle with a whole pond to call his own gets greedy and tyrannizes his fellow turtles in his quest for multi-pond domination? If that sounds to you like a not-so-subtle allegory for Adolf Hitler, you’re absolutely right. Seuss later acknowledged the Turtle was a symbol of Hitler and Nazi Germany.
#5. His first book was turned down by 27 different publishers.
It took 28 tries to get And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street published, a process so frustrating that Seuss nearly burned his draft of the book. But, he persisted, and after writing over 40 books in his lifetime and selling more than half-a-billion copies, Dr. Seuss is one of the most successful children’s authors of all time.