Creating Seussland: The Life and Homes of Dr. Seuss

By Nicky M. | Arcadia Staff
In any children’s library, you’re sure to see at least one name: Dr. Seuss. Born Theodor Seuss Geisel, Dr. Seuss lived and worked all over the United States during his long career writing children’s books. To celebrate the great author’s birthday this weekend, we’re exploring some of the places that influenced Dr. Seuss, and the places he influenced in return!

Growing up in the Knowledge Corridor

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Situated only about 25 miles from Hartford, Connecticut, Springfield was originally founded under the name Agawam in 1636. The settlement was well known for its favorable geography, and was discovered as part of a scouting trip to find land suitable for both agriculture and trade. Serving as a crossroads for the Boston-to-Albany and New York-to-Montreal trade routes, Springfield flourished as a trade post until the mid-18th century.

By the time Geisel was born, however, Springfield had changed substantially – home to two colleges, and located only a short distance from Hartford’s own universities, Springfield had become a city based on education and progress. In 1905, only a year after Theodor’s birth, Springfield became the first city to have a motorized fire engine, making it the most modern fire department in the world. And only a few years prior, Indian motorcycles became the first successful motorcycle manufacturer in the United States.

The community’s dedication to invention and learning had a profound effect on Seuss who, after growing up in the New England city, attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. While at Ivy League university, Theodor not only excelled at his studies, but also rose to become the editor-in-chief of the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, a humor magazine, which encouraged his creative talents. It was here that Geisel first began to write under his well-known penname: Dr. Seuss.

Creating the Children’s Dr. Seuss

After leaving Dartmouth, Seuss pursued his writing interests, creating political cartoons, and working in advertising. However, by 1936, Seuss had turned to a new passion – writing children’s books. His first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street called back to his Springfield youth, as he had lived less than a mile away from the eponymous road. This first jaunt into children’s books was nearly a failure for Seuss, as the book was denied by almost 30 publishers. After finally reaching publication in 1937, And to Thing That I Saw It on Mulberry Street became a critical success, jumpstarting Seuss’ lifelong career.

The Dr. Seuss memorial at UCSD.
Springfield continued to influence Seuss’ works, with three of his books (1947’s McElligot’s Pool, 1950’s If I Ran the Zoo,  and 1956’s If I Ran the Circus) set in a fictional reimagining of the New England town. But the majority of Seuss’ most well-known books were written from a new home: La Jolla, California. A far cry from Springfield, La Jolla is one of many communities within the larger city of San Diego in southern California. Known for its hilly, seaside terrain, La Jolla was incorporated into San Diego in 1850, and had become known for both marine research and its many businesses by the time Seuss relocated in 1948.

Although La Jolla may not have influenced Seuss’ upbringing, it certainly held a large influence over his work – from his satirical rendition of the “La Jolla Birdwomen,” to a 1970 painting entitled “I Dreamed I Was a Doorman at the Hotel del Coronado,” La Jolla can be seen in both Seuss’ artistic and literary works. The most notable influence from La Jolla, perhaps, can be seen in Seuss’ renowned book The Lorax, and its truffula trees. The focal point of the tale, the truffula tree found its inspiration in the Monterey Cypress, a native tree of La Jolla and the California coast. Although not plentiful, La Jolla’s one cypress was part of the expansive view of Seuss’ hilltop home.

Seuss continued working from his home in La Jolla until his death in 1991. Today, the community continues to honor the late Dr. Seuss, affectionately referring to the town’s cypress as the “Lorax tree,” and renaming UC San Diego’s library the “Geisel Library” four years after his death. With an influence still felt in his many homes, and across the world, Dr. Seuss has left a mark on children and adults, reminding us all to “think and wonder, wonder and think!”
 
ON SALE Springfield
MA
$21.99$16.49
ON SALE La Jolla
CA
$21.99$16.49
ON SALE Historic Tales of La Jolla
CA
$21.99$16.49
ON SALE Lost Springfield, Massachusetts
MA
$21.99$16.49