Dr. Seuss is called many things. An artist, an inspiration, a motivator, but a racist? This was never the narrative until recently. With his childlike rhymes and colorful art, it seems that Dr. Seuss, too, has a colorful past.
Before his famous tales, Dr. Seuss was the chief editorial and political cartoonist for the New York newspaper, PM, from 1941 to 1943. There he drew over 400 editorial cartoons highlighting political history. In many of these drawings, Seuss depicted Japanese, Arabs, and Africans in offensive and exaggerated ways. Even though Dr. Seuss’s aesthetic is interpreted as unusual and funny, many people did not find themselves as a punchline amusing.
While this is alarming news, this isn’t what put Dr. Seuss’s name in a bad light but more so that he continued to draw people offensively in his children’s books.
Beginning his book career in 1954, Dr. Seuss published And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street. At that time, many overlooked his drawings of how he drew Japanese, Arabs, and Africans.
After years of illustrating offensively, it was the aftermath of Hiroshima that would change Dr. Seuss’s illustrations for good. Shortly after the horrific event, Horton Hears a Who! was created and the book was dedicated to Mitsugi Nakamura of Kyoto, Japan.
The book itself seemed to be a symbolization for a fresh start for Seuss’s past. And from then on, he wrote and illustrated topics about respecting differences, the environment, and optimism.
To continue this new look, Dr. Seuss drew an apology illustration in 1942 saying the country needed “a good mental insecticide”. The drawing included what seems to be Uncle Sam spraying the ears of Americans and removing the Racial Prejudice Bug from their ears.
But even an art apology doesn’t keep the past in the past. As time progressed and 59 more books followed, people grew more comfortable speaking out about their distaste for Seuss’s depictions. And finally, after years of complaints, Seuss’s infamous drawings at The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum were finally removed. Since then, more removals have been at work.
As of today, six of Dr. Seuss’s books have stopped publication. The decision was made by Seuss’s family in pursuit to stop portraying “people in ways that are hurtful and wrong”.
As of now, these books have halted distribution: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, The Cat’s Quizzer, new generations will continue to read Dr. Seuss’s tales and stop the repetitive pattern of misrepresentation.
Is that all of Dr. Seuss’s skeletons in the closet? Sadly, no. Dr. Seuss’s personal life had some darkness as well.
Before his art, there was his college sweetheart, Helen Palmer. Seeing his talent, she pushed and inspired him to earn a living through his art. Helen became not only his wife but his biggest supporter.
While Seuss was an aspiring cartoonist, she also wrote children’s books and later became the Founder and Vice President of Beginner Books. Together, Seuss and Helen created a documentary, winning the 1947 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Helen also edited some of Seuss’s books.
During their 40 years of marriage, Helen’s health declined and for the span of 13 years her health would fluctuate. Instead of staying by her side, Seuss’s eyes began to wander.
Partially paralyzed due to Guillain-Barré syndrome and diagnosed with cancer, Helen found herself alone in her home while Seuss was with his new mistress, Audrey Stone Dimond.
Heartbroken, Helen was found by their longtime housekeeper with an empty prescription bottle and a heart-wrenching goodbye note that can be found online.
Eight months later, Seuss married Audrey Stone Dimond.
With a past that shocks many, Dr. Seuss continues to be a children’s book author sensation. But why? Simply because he has inspired and moved generations. On the brink of cancellation, it seems admiration can truly keep a man alive forever.