little-known secrets behind the men & women who shaped
The good doctor was no doctor at all
By Paul Niemann
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[September 24, 2009]
Ted was born in Springfield in 1904. Like the
hometown of The Simpsons, his home state is irrelevant to this
story. In case you're wondering, though, there are 35 states that
have a Springfield.
His parents were Theodor and Henrietta Geisel, and he had two
sisters. He was known by his title of doctor and was beloved by kids
everywhere for his work. In fact, nearly everyone knew his name, but
it wasn't his actual name. He wasn't a doctor, either.
Ted's mother ran a bakery before she married Ted's father. When
she had trouble getting Ted to sleep, she would use a certain rhythm
to chant the names of the pies that she had baked. This type of
rhythm stayed with Ted all his life, and it influenced his work to
the point that he would use this rhythm throughout his career.
While a student at Dartmouth College, Ted was the editor of the
school's humor magazine. His father and grandfather were both
brewmasters, but that probably had nothing to do with the fact that
Ted once got in trouble for throwing a drinking party.
As a result, he was forced to resign his post as editor. In order
to continue writing for the magazine, he signed his work with a
disguised identity. He simply dropped his last name and used his
middle name instead, which was also his mother's maiden name.
Ted attended Oxford University to become a professor. When a
fellow American student named Helen Palmer saw some of his drawings,
she advised him to give up his goal of becoming a professor and
become an artist instead. He took her advice -- and then he married
her. She was a writer, too. After she died in 1967, Ted remarried.
He had worked briefly as a cartoonist, and then Standard Oil
offered him a job in their advertising department. When a competitor
offered him a similar position, he made his decision by flipping a
coin. Hmmm, there's a lesson in here somewhere. His first children's
book, "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," was rejected
at first -- by all 27 publishers that he pitched it to!
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Ted went on to publish 44 books from 1957 to 1996, and several of
them have been adapted into films and animated TV shows. Twenty-four
of his books became best-selling children's books.
Then why did he use the title of doctor in his name? It was
because his dad always wanted a doctor in the family! His full name
was Ted Seuss Geisel. You know him as Dr. Seuss.
Here are a few little-known pieces of trivia about Dr. Seuss that
you can use to impress your friends...
Karloff narrated Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Karloff is well-known for playing Frankenstein's monster in the
1931 movie "Frankenstein."
The person who
provides the voice of Tony the Tiger when he says "That's
grrrreat!" also provided the voice for the Dr. Seuss theme song.
His name is Thurl Ravenscroft.
Dr. Seuss -- the man who wrote 24
best-selling children's books -- never had any children of his
In case you're still wondering where Dr. Seuss was born, it was
the Springfield in Massachusetts.
Paul Niemann's column has appeared in
more than 80 newspapers and counting. He is the author of the
"Invention Mysteries" series of books and can be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2009