Drawings by Dr. Seuss
Akron Art Museum
The works of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to generations as the beloved Dr. Seuss, have entertained and educated children and their parents for over half a century. In fabricating tales and bringing fantastic creatures to life in the imaginations of young and old alike, he gave us the likes of the Cat in the Hat, Yertle the Turtle, the Lorax, and the Grinch. Drawings by Dr. Seuss, drawn from the Dr. Seuss Collection of the Mandeville Special Collections Library, University of California, San Diego, will feature the original artwork, including sketches, ink and gouache drawings and hand-colored prints, that Geisel created for his many books. Images from Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears a Who!, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and of course, The Cat in the Hat, will be on view. Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 2, 1904. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1925, he proceeded on to Oxford University with the intent of acquiring a doctorate in literature. At Oxford, he met Helen Palmer, who he wed in 1927. He returned from Europe in 1927 and began working for a magazine called Judge, the leading humor magazine in America at the time, submitting both cartoons and humorous articles for them. Additionally, he was submitting cartoons to Life, Vanity Fair, and Liberty. In some of his works, he'd made reference to an insecticide called Flit. These references gained notice and led to a contract to draw comic ads for Flit. This association lasted 17 years, gained him national exposure, and coined the phrase "Quick, Henry, the Flit!". His first children's book, in 1936 on the way to a vacation in Europe, listening to the rhythm of the ship's engines, he came up with And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which was then promptly rejected by the first 43 publishers he showed it to. Eventually in 1937 a friend published the book for him, and it went on to at least moderate success. During World War II, Geisel joined the army and was sent to Hollywood. Captain Geisel would write for Frank Capra's Signal Corps Unit (for which he won the Legion of Merit) and do documentaries (he won Oscar's for Hitler Lives and Design for Death). He also created a cartoon called Gerald McBoing-Boing, which also won him an Oscar. In May of 1954, Life published a report concerning illiteracy among school children. The report said, among other things, that children were having trouble reading because their books were boring. This inspired Geisel's publisher and prompted him to send Geisel a list of 400 words he felt were important, asked him to cut the list to 250 words (the publisher's idea of how many words at one time a first grader could absorb) and write a book. Nine months later, Geisel, using 220 of the words given to him published The Cat in the Hat, which went on to instant success. This popular series combines engaging stories with outrageous illustrations and playful sounds to teach basic reading skills. In 1960 Bennett Cerf bet Geisel $50 that he couldn't write an entire book using only fifty words. The result was Green Eggs and Ham. Cerf never paid the $50 bet. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and two Academy Awards, Seuss was the author and illustrator of 44 children's books, some of which have been made into audiocassettes, animated television specials, and videos for children of all ages. Even after his death in 1991, Dr. Seuss continues to be the best-selling author of children's books in the world. Helen Palmer Geisel died in 1967. Theodor Geisel married Audrey Stone Diamond in 1968. Theodor Seuss Geisel died 24 September 1991. This exhibition is organized by the Akron Art Museum and is made possible by Anonymous Donors.