Today, September 24, marks the 29th anniversary of Theodor Seuss Geisel’s death, better known by his pen name Dr. Seuss, was a writer and cartoonist who published over 60 books. 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 bestsellers, including The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. His rhymes and characters are beloved by generations of fans.
Dr. Seuss achieved early success writing and illustrating humorous advertisements for Flit, a bug spray manufactured by Standard Oil. (“Quick, Henry, the Flit!” became one of the most memorable catchphrases of its time.) He also created advertising campaigns for a diverse range of clients including Ford Motor Company, NBC and Narragansett Brewing Company. Even in his commercial work, Dr. Seuss employed a madcap menagerie of beasts, such as the “Moto-raspus” and “Karbo-nockus” who appeared in Essolube motor oil ads.
Geisel left Oxford without earning a degree and returned to the United States in February 1927, where he immediately began submitting writings and drawings to magazines, book publishers, and advertising agencies. Making use of his time in Europe, he pitched a series of cartoons called Eminent Europeans to Life magazine, but the magazine passed on it.
After a 27th publisher rejected his first manuscript, Dr. Seuss walked dejectedly along the sidewalks of New York, planning to burn the book in his apartment incinerator. On Madison Avenue, however, he bumped into Dartmouth friend Mike McClintock, who that very morning had started a job as an editor in the Vanguard Press children’s section. Within hours, the men signed a contract, and in 1937 Vanguard Press published “And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” which launched the extraordinary literary career of Dr. Seuss.
Dr. Seuss wife, Helen Geisel struggled for more than a decade with partial paralysis from Guillain-Barré syndrome. Depressed by her worsening symptoms and possibly by suspicions of her husband’s affair with a close friend who would become his second wife, Helen took her own life in October 1967 at the age of 68. Helen Geisel was unable to bear children, and Geisel did not father any children with second wife Audrey, though he was a stepfather to her two daughters.
In the early ’80s, Seuss was diagnosed with oral cancer after a dentist discovered it on his tongue. Although he ended up having surgery to help prevent the cancer from spreading, a few years later, Seuss had a jaw infection that doctors were unable to cure. Then, on September 24th, 1991, Seuss died at the age of 87. His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean. On December 1, 1995, four years after his death, University of California, San Diego’s University Library Building was renamed Geisel Library in honor of Geisel and Audrey for the generous contributions that they made to the library and their devotion to improving literacy.