You may be a lifelong fan of Dr. Seuss, but how well do you really know the children’s books legend? The American icon was born in 1904 in Massachusetts as Theodore “Ted” Seuss Geisel, and many know him for his whimsical children’s books.
As kids, a lot of people could quote his books word for word, and many avid readers credit their love for reading to his delightful publications.
Here are some things you might have never known about Dr. Seuss.
1. His Name Is Pronounced “Soose”
Many people mispronounce Dr. Seuss’ name. The family emigrated from Bavaria where the name is actually pronounced “Zoice.”
2. He Invented The Word “Nerd”
Dr. Seuss wrote If I Ran the Zoo in which the word “nerd” is used for the first time ever. In the book, the word refers to a red and yellow and white-haired sourpuss, and it would later evolve into a word that describes bookish people.
3. Doodling Helped Him A Lot
Apparently, many of the story ideas Dr. Seuss had came to life through doodling.
4. He Was An Avid Writer
Every day, Dr. Seuss would write for eight hours.
5. He Wasn’t A Doctor
Although a lot of people might think Dr. Seuss was actually a doctor, he started using the name to give his writing more credibility.
However, his second wife thought he was a medical doctor when she first met him.
6. He Had Lots Of Fans, Still Has
It is estimated that Dr. Seuss received about 9267 pounds of mail from his fans every year. He had his publisher, Random House, send out standard notes with his autograph claiming he lived on a high mountain peak and that his mail was delivered by a slow-moving animal called Budget.
7. He Would Discard Between 500 and 1,000 Pages Before The Final Draft
During the first draft of a picture book, Dr. Seuss would dispose a lot of pages before coming up with a final draft.
8. His Mother Inspired His Poetry
In a 1995 biography, Dr. Seuss revealed that his mother was the inspiration behind his popular rhymes. Apparently, the legend’s mother would chant soft bedtime rhymes to her children on the regular.
She had memorized these rhymes while working at her father’s bakery.
9. He Wrote Children’s Books After Seeing That American Kids Had Problems Learning To Read
After reading that American children had problems reading, he decided to become a creator of children’s books.
10. Dartmouth College Often Serves Green Eggs And Ham In His Honor
The Dartmouth Outing Club often pays tribute to Dr. Seuss by serving freshmen green eggs and ham during their outdoor excursions.
11. He Owned A Cherished Dinosaur Footprint
Seuss’ father gave him a footprint measuring about 16 inches by 11 inches. It was from a shale pit in Massachusetts and was estimated to be about 150 million years old.
However, some people thought he made the fossil himself, probably because he was known to make practical jokes.
12. Yertle The Turtle Represents Hitler
Dr. Seuss admitted that he never set out to prove a point with his books, except for Yertle the Turtle, which is about Hitler’s life. Apparently, he even considered giving Yertle a mustache.
13. He Got Into Children’s Books To Avoid Breaching His Contract
Before writing children’s books, Dr. Seuss had an advertising contract that prohibited him from doing lot of things except for children’s books and a few other creative projects.
14. He Used Dr. To Console His Father
Dr. Seuss’ father hoped that his son would be a doctor one day. For this reason, he used Dr. as a way to console him.
15. The Grinch Movie Was Not Successful At First
Today, The Grinch is a popular holiday movie. However, soon after its release, it drew a lot of criticism and was actually a flop.
16. His Book About Mount Everest Was Rejected
Dr. Seuss tried to write a book about climbing Mount Everest, but it was rejected because children could not understand words like Everest, scaling, peaks, or degrees.
17. He Has An Honorary Degree From Dartmouth
In the year 1956, Dr. Seuss got an honorary doctorate degree.
18. He Liked Practical Jokes
A lot of people had a problem taking Dr. Seuss seriously. For instance, the local fish store’s number differed from his by just a single digit.
When people ordered fish through his number, he would send them pictures of the drawing instead of directing them to the store.
19. One Of His Books Was Self-Inspired
How The Grinch Stole Christmas was inspired by Dr. Seuss himself. He was brushing his teeth on 26th of December when he realized something had gone wrong with Christmas and it was all his fault.
20. He Enlisted In The Army
During the Second World War, Dr. Seuss enlisted in the army, but was sent to Hollywood to create propaganda cartoons that featured the misadventures of Private SNAFU.
He was even awarded the Legion of Merit for the work he did during the war, although he regretted his depictions of Japanese Americans.
21. Even Before Becoming A Successful Children’s Writer, He Was Still A Success
Most people might assume that Dr. Seuss got his big break from creating children’s books, and to some extent, that’s true.
However, before then, he was successful in advertising and worked with companies like Standard Oil and Flit bug spray.
22. He Wasn’t A Fan Of Richard Nixon
Dr. Seuss didn’t like Richard Nixon, and he parodied him in The Washington post when it was clear he would get impeached over the Watergate scandal. Dr. Seuss was urging him to resign.
23. He Had A “Grinch” License Plate
Dr. Seuss had a license plate saying “GRINCH.”
24. He Co-Wrote A Movie Musical
Dr. Seuss co-wrote the musical, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, in which a crazy musician kidnaps 500 boys and forces them to play a giant piano. The musical bombed at the box office after it was released in 1953.
25. His Wife Handled His Business
Dr. Seuss’ wife Helen was in charge of most of his business matters. They also ran an imprint of Random House called Beginner Books.
He remarried a year after she died in 1967.
26. It Took 3 Months To Come Up With An Ending To How The Grinch Stole Christmas
After agonizing over an appropriate ending to this popular book, he choose to end it with an image of the Grinch and the Whos sitting around a dinner table enjoying a Roast Beast.
27. He Had Wacky Hats In His Closet
Dr. Seuss had a closet full of hilarious hats that he would sometimes wear to get the creative juices flowing when hit by the writer’s block.
It was reported that he had more than 300 hats at one point. Strangely, he also wrote a book titled The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, a man who collected many kinds of hats throughout his life.
28. He Dropped Out Of Oxford
After Dartmouth, Seuss enrolled at University of Oxford hoping to get a Ph. D in English Literature. He met his first wife there, although he dropped out before completing his studies.
29. Dr. Seuss Won A Pulitzer Prize
In the year 1984, Dr. Seuss won the Pulitzer Prize for his work, the first for a children’s book.
During the award, he was told he had gotten the award for his “special contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America’s children and their parents.”
30. The Butter Battle Book Was Controversial
In his 1984 book, The Butter Battle Book, Seuss clearly references the U.S.-Soviet hostilities that happened during the Second World War. Some parents thought such a story was too scary for children.
31. He Liked To See If The Editors Were Paying Attention
Dr. Seuss would often include NSFW content in his manuscripts to see if the editors were attentive. In Dr. Seuss’ ABC, he included a picture of a naked woman next to a letter “X” with a message that read: “Big X, little x. X,X,X / Someday, kiddies, you will learn about SEX.”
32. According To Him, Children’s Books Were Too Boring
Dr. Seuss came up with the plot to The Cat in the Hat after what he felt were boring and simple Dick and Jane book series.
33. He Wrote 45 Books
Although you might know about a dozen books by Dr. Seuss, he was able to write a total of 45 books during his career.
34. He Was Shy Around Children
Dr. Seuss was naturally shy, and usually didn’t know how to conduct himself around kids. Apparently, the shyness he had around adults was “magnified tremendously” around children, according to his secretary Julie Olf.
35. His Books Have Been Translated Into Latin
Some of Dr. Seuss’ books have been translated into Latin, such as How The Grinch Stole Christmas!
36. Dr. Seuss Won Two Academy Awards
During this lifetime, Dr. Seuss won two Oscars. He won the first award in 1947 for Design for Death, a book he wrote with his wife. His second award came in 1951 for his animated short film, Gerald McBoing-Boing.
37. He Was A Fan Of Author Maurice Sendak, The Writer of Where The Wild Things Are
Dr. Seuss loved Sendak because he had the courage to resist the influence of editors:
“Like me, he isn’t writing for kids; he’s writing for all people.”
38. His Meeting With Teddy Roosevelt Scarred Him For Life
Dr. Seuss was a boy scout and he managed to become one of the top 10 best bond sellers in his Boy Scout troop, a feat that earned him an opportunity to get medals from former president Theodore Roosevelt.
However, instead of the expected 10 medals, he received 9. Roosevelt did not realize the oversight and asked “what is this little boy doing here?”
Dr. Seuss was then quickly taken off the stage, humiliated. He attributes his lifelong fear of public speaking to this incident.
39. He Has A Walk Of Fame Star
Hollywood’s Walk of Fame features movie stars and television personalities. Dr. Seuss was indicted into the Walk of Fame posthumously in 2004.
40. He Died Of Oral Cancer
Dr. Seuss was a heavy smoker, and he died of oral cancer at 87 in the year 1991.
41. No Biological Children
Surprising as this might sound, considering how much joy he brought into the lives of many kids, Dr. Seuss did not have his own biological children.
Apparently, when asked why he did not have children of his own, all he said was: “you make them, I’ll amuse them.”
Maybe his inability to have kids due to his wife’s inability to carry any had a lot to do with his immense drive to create fun content for children.
His second wife came with two children from a previous relationship.
However, he also had imaginary children, including Chrysanthemum Pearl. Dr. Seuss said she could make the “most delicious oyster stew with chocolate frosting and flaming Roman candles.”
42. He Changed The World
Life Books named Seuss one of the 100 People Who Changed the World.
43. One Of His Characters Is Named After His Editor’s Son
The book And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street has the main character, Marco, named after the editor’s son. He was showing his gratitude after dozens of publishers rejected it before Marshall McClintock of Vanguard Press accepted the manuscript.
44. The Lorax Might Have Been Inspired By A Monkey In Kenya
While on a trip to Kenya, Dr. Seuss saw a particular monkey species many believe to be the inspiration behind The Lorax.
The monkey is found near Mount Kenya, and it’s called the patas monkey. The ape is very similar to the fictional monkey Lorax.
The Lorax was also the first of his books to face censorship with the logging industry asking that it be removed from school reading lists.
45. He Won A Peabody Award
For his animated special How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Horton Hears a Who! Dr. Seuss won a Peabody award.
46. Cat In The Hat Took Over A Year To Write
Many writers take years to write a single book. However, it is quite unusual that a book that uses 236 different words took that long to write.
47. He Won Two Emmys
In addition to winning two Oscars, Dr. Seuss also won two Emmy awards in 1977 and 1982 for Halloween Is Grinch Night and The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat.
48. Dr. Seuss Was Voted “Least Likely To Succeed”
His Dartmouth classmates once voted Seuss as least likely to succeed. The joke’s on them.
49. Only 4 Of His 44 Books Are In Prose
Most of Dr. Seuss’ books are written in verse. Only four are written in prose.
50. A $50 Bet Was Behind His Best-Selling Book
When Bennet Cerf, his editor, claimed that he could not write a book using 50 words or less, he came up with Green Eggs and Ham in the 60s, a book that ended selling more than eight million copies.
51. His First Book Was Published 6 Years After He Wrote It
Dr. Seuss wrote his first children’s book in 1931. However, it was published in 1937.
It was called And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.
52. He Liked Anapestic Tetrameter
Most of his books are written in this poetic meter.
53. Dad Was A Brewmaster Before Working At The Zoo
Dr. Seuss’ dad worked as a brewmaster, but went into another line of work after Prohibition came into force in 1920. At the time, he became a superintendent of Forest Park in Springfield, Massachusetts.
54. He Wrote An Adult Book With Nude Drawings
Many people are not aware that Dr. Seuss wrote the book The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History’s Barest Family.
The book had unclothed sisters, and many agreed that it was not particular erotic, including Dr. Seuss himself.
55. The Butter Battle Book Was An Adult Bestseller
Although this was a children’s book, it spent six months as a New York Times’ adult bestsellers.
56. He Published A Lot Of Picture Books
Before his death in 1991, Dr. Seuss had published 44 picture books.
57. Oh, the Places You’ll Go Was The Last Book He Published When Alive
Before he died, the last book he published was Oh, The Places You’ll Go. It was also his bestselling book.
58. One Of His Books Might Have Been Inspired By Japan
While traveling to Japan in 1953, Dr. Seuss was inspired to write Horton Hear’s a Who, which might have been about his friend, Mitsugi Nakamura.
59. Dr. Seuss Was Initially A Form Of Escape
In college, Seuss and his friends were caught drinking in their dorm, and his editorship at the college was taken away. The only way he could to on publishing any work was by using a pseudonym.
After a couple of tries, he settled on “Dr. Seuss”. He was also saving his real name for the Great American Novel he planned on writing later.
60. He Supported The War
At the start of 1941, Dr. Seuss made political cartoons urging the U.S. to take part in the war while also speaking against anti-Semitism and racism.
Throughout his illustrious writing career, Dr. Seuss changed children’s literature for good. Many of his books remain favorites among children even today; decades after his death.
However, although it might seem like you know everything there is to know about Dr. Seuss based on this works, there is still plenty people don’t know about this popular author.