Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Literary Site: Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) - Springfield, MA

Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss)
Springfield, MA

N 42° 06.224 W 072° 35.137

Short Description:

Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) was born and raised in Springfield, MA. Many of his books were inspired by the people and places of Springfield.

Long Description

Dr. Seuss was born as Theodor Geisel on March 2, 1904 into a German American family in Springfield. His grandfather Theodor as born in Muhlhausen, Germany and emigrated to America in 1867. His grandmother Christina Schmaelzle was born Wurttemberg, Germany.  The family opened a successful brewery in Springfield. Soon it became one of the largest breweries in New England.   His German maternal grandparents, George J. Seuss and Margaretha Seuss, provided young Theodor with his pen name. His father Theodor Robert Geisel managed the family brewery and later became head of the Springfield parks department.

Theodor Geisel Boyhood Home

The Geisel family lived in an upper ,middle class neighborhood in the Forest Park section of Springfield at 74 Fairfield Street. His experiences in Springfield were to be the inspiration for many of his children's book.  One of his first books And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street! was inspired by a street not far from his family home.

Theodor Geisel graduated Springfield Central High School in 1921 and graduated Dartmouth College in 1925. He entered the Ph.D program in Lincoln College, Oxford but quit to pursue a career in drawing. He moved to new York City in 1927 and married Helen Palmer whom he met at Oxford. He supported himself and his wife by creating advertising drawings for such companies as: General Electric, NBC, Standard Oil, and Narragansett Brewing Company.

Dr. Seuss books have sold over 222 million copies, and have been translated into more than 15 languages. According to Publishers Weekly, among the best-selling children's books of all time, 9 of the top 20 hardcover books were written by Theodor Geisel, including Green Eggs and Ham (4), The Cat in the Hat (9), One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (13), Hop on Pop (16), Oh, The Places You'll Go (17) and Dr. Seuss's ABC (18).

The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Garden is located in the Quadrangle (21 Edwards St.) in Springfield.

The sculpture garden has five bronze sculptures ranging in size from small to huge each depicting a Dr. Seuss characters and Dr. Seuss himself. In addition, there is a twelve foot high replica of the book Oh, The Places You'll Go!, complete with the entire readable text.

The sculptures are:

1. Dr. Seuss and the Cat-In-The-Hat - Dr. Seuss is sitting at his desk with the Cat-In-The-Hat looking over his shoulder.

2. The Horton Court - A huge sculpture featuring Horton the Elephant, Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, Sam I Am, One Thing, Two Thing Conrad, and Sally. All the characters except Sally are placed on the pages of an open book. Sally is on a flat platform extending under the book.

3. The Storyteller - A twelve foot high replica of the book Oh, The Places You'll Go!, complete with the entire text. Standing next to it is the Grinch and his dog Max.

4. The Lorax - A small statue of the Lorax inscribed with the word Unless on its base.

5. The Yertl Garden - Yertl the Turtle sits atop a stack of his fellow turtles.

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street!

"All the long way to school
and all the way back
I've looked and I've looked
and kept careful track,

But all that I've noticed
except my own feet
was a horse and a wagon
on Mulberry Street"

--Dr. Seuss

And so begins a tale of a young boy's imagination that turns a horse and a wagon on Mulberry Street into a fantastic extravaganza.

Theodor Seuss Geisel's first children's book is "And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street!". Mulberry Street, the location for this story, is less than a mile from his boyhood home on Fairfield Street. The illustrations for this book contain Springfield imagery. A Mayor Fordis Parker look-alike is on the reviewing stand for the parade. The police officers riding red motorcycles, the traditional color of the iconic Indian Motorcycles manufactured in Springfield.

N 42° 06.102 W 072° 34.719
There is now a plaque near the site of one of the original homes on Mulberry Street acknowledging Mulberry Street as the the locale for the story. It is inscribed:

This was the site of one of Mulberry's Street's oldest
houses, Circa 1830. Mulberry Street was memorialized in
the first book authored by Springfield native
Theodore Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss

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