A dejected young man trudging along Madison Avenue in 1937 was probably not an unusual sight during the Great Depression, but this one bumped into a friend from his college days who asked him what he was carrying. “It’s a book no one will publish” said Theodor Geisel, stinging from his 27th rejection, “and I’m taking it home to burn”.
As luck would have it, his friend, Mike McClintock, had just that morning been made editor of children’s books at Vanguard Publishing Co. He invited Geisel to his office where he bought the book the minute he read it. With the book, “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street” became the first published children’s book of Theodor Seuss Geisel using the name “Dr. Seuss”.
When the book came out, the legendary book reviewer for the new Yorker, Clifton Fadiman, announced: ‘They say it’s for children, but better get a copy for yourself and marvel at the good Dr. Seuss’s impossible pictures and the moral tale of the little boy who exaggerated not wisely but too well.’
In college, Geisel had used the pen name Dr. Theophrastus Seuss and later used Theo LeSieg and Rosetta Stone. Though Dr. Seuss has become a household name, Geisel also worked as a political cartoonist, an illustrator for advertising campaigns and during World War 11 he worked in an animation department of the United States Army. He added the “Dr.” to his pen name because his father had always wanted him to become a doctor.
Leaving Oxford without earning a degree, he began submitting his work to magazines, book publishers and advertising agencies. His first nationally published cartoon appeared in 1927 in The Saturday Evening Post, and earned $25. Later that year Geisel’s first work signed “Dr. Seuss” was published in the humor magazine “Judge”.
Increased income allowed Geisel and his wife Helen to travel, and by 1936 they had visited 30 countries together. While returning from an ocean voyage to Europe in 1936, the rhythm of the ship’s engines inspired the poem that became his first book “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street”.
During WW2, Geisel joined the Army Air Force where he wrote propaganda films and army training films. After the war, he and his wife moved to La Jolla, California where he returned to writing children’s books.
Many of his forty-four books remain wild bestsellers. Theodor Geisel is selling 11,000 Dr. Seuss books every day of the year. As inevitable as Dr. Seuss’s appeal seems now, Mulberry Street was rejected by twenty-seven publishers,
Though he devoted most of his life to writing children’s books, Geisel had no children of his own, he would say when asked about this, “You have ’em’; I’ll entertain ’em.”