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Happy Birthday to Seuss!

Celebrating the Work of Theodor Seuss Geisel

By Theia Griffin • February 22, 2021

Happy Birthday Ted! Theodor Seuss Geisel, affectionately known as Dr. Seuss, was born March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts, a town – or more accurately, a street in that town – whose appearance in print would become the backdrop in And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. This is a story of a boy whose soaring and spontaneous imagination, delivered with escalating action in a unique and perfect combination of text, rhyme and art, would be the first Dr. Seuss book of over forty published in his career.

Ted Geisel, a Dartmouth graduate and Oxford dropout, began his career as an advertising man, and as a cartoonist. Geisel produced his first book, Mulberry Street, after twenty-seven publisher rejections. Geisel was on his way to burn the manuscript when he ran into a Dartmouth friend on Madison Avenue, who was a children's book editor at Vanguard Press. He asked Ted what was under his arm and Ted replied, "A book no one will publish." The friend marched Ted up to the office of Vanguard's president, who immediately reviewed the manuscript and within twenty minutes a contract was signed, and Ted's first book was published.

Vanguard published one more Dr. Seuss book in prose form, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, in 1938 before Bennett Cerf decided he wanted Theodor Geisel for Random House. The first book Geisel pitched to Cerf was not necessarily a children's book; it was, as Geisel characterized it, "maybe an adult book with naked ladies." Cerf bought it. The Seven Lady Godivas became Geisel's first book for Random House, and it bombed upon its release. What Cerf was waiting for was another book with Dr. Seuss's signature rhyming, an anapestic tetrameter, a rhythm Geisel had picked up while listening to the hum of a ship's engines turnover on a stormy transatlantic voyage. Cerf wasn't disappointed when Geisel completed his next Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hatches the Egg. Geisel masterfully married his drawings to his words on pages further developing what would become his signature style with strictest attention to layout, design and color.

Actively recruited to join the Armed Forces by the Academy Award Winning director Frank Capra, Geisel learned and later credited Capra with teaching him the essentials of storytelling and storyboarding – a skill he ruthlessly employed with his own work and later as an editor. Here, in Hollywood, Geisel developed more lifelong friendships that would influence the success of his literary career for decades to come. Chuck Jones, a fellow member of his unit, would go on to direct The Grinch and The Cat in The Hat on film under Geisel's close and scrutinizing supervision.

After the war, Geisel returned to Dr. Seuss and in 1949 Geisel's next book, Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, was published. In 1957, The Cat in the Hat was released and overnight was selling over 1,000 copies a day – a wild success and far cry from the sales returns on The Seven Lady Godivas. Random House released Geisel's next big book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, to even more resounding success a few months later, propelling Ted well into the pantheon of the world's bestselling authors.

Cerf bet Geisel $50 he couldn't write a book with 50 words or less. The resulting book, Green Eggs and Ham, lost Cerf the $50 and veritably helped define the term blockbuster. It was a sensational success and remains Geisel's most popular book of all time with sales after 60 years approaching 10 million copies. Forever after, of course, Ted would be served plates full of green eggs and ham. Bennett Cerf often voiced that Ted Geisel was Random's only true genius; a staggering statement considering Random's stable of individual talents.

When we consider collectible books like our present copy of Thidwick, we are, in part, drawing attention to first editions and early editions because they directly speak to Geisel's eye, and his perfectionism and style is best exemplified. Colors, layout, image bleeds employing no boarders, type in specific locales, and his verse all speak to his creativity and genius. Oh, The Places You'll Go! remains the go-to gift for anyone reaching any milestone, from children to adults alike. We invite you to explore our Collectibles, as well as New and Used copies of his books to fully gain your own understanding of the true genius of this author and artist.

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