Dr. Seuss is known beyond America for his beloved children’s books, but where did he grow up?
Dr. Seuss was born in Springfield Massachusetts on March 2, 1904, to a relatively wealthy family. He grew up in Springfield before leaving home at the age of 18 to attend Dartmouth College, where he was an English major.
Read on to learn more about Dr. Seuss’ early life in Springfield, his time as a boy scout, and Dartmouth College.
Known as someone who “entertained generations of children and adults”, Dr. Seuss is known worldwide for his stories and illustrations.
His birth name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, but he adopted the name ‘Dr. Seuss’ whilst a college student.
Theodor’s start to life was comfortable and full of love. He was born on March 2, 1904, to Henrietta and Theodor Robert Geisel, and they were a prominent Springfield family.
At the time of his birth, a few large manufacturing companies were contributing to prosperity in the area. His family was of German descent and the population of German immigrants at the time was also bustling.
It is thought that the family purchased their house, located at 74 Fairfield Street, for $3000 from the previous owners and this is where Theodor would be encouraged to let his imagination run free.
Theodor’s father owned a successful brewery with his grandfather, which enabled the family to live a prosperous lifestyle. They were part of an emerging middle class who were literate.
The brewing company produced 300,000 barrels a year, one of the largest breweries in England, but was forced to close on January 18, 1920, due to Prohibition Laws.
Theodor’s father, however, had been an honorary member of the parks board since 1909, which brought great benefits to Theodor and eventually became a salaried position for his father.
Theodor used to love attending the nearby Forest Park, which was 500 acres and housed the Springfield Zoo. His father would take him for visits and his childhood exposure to animals is thought to have influenced his children’s books.
When his father couldn’t take him, his mother and sister would accompany him and Theodor would take his sketchbook. When he was at home, he would reportedly draw caricatures on the wallpaper at the encouragement of his mother who became his “accomplice in crime”.
It was announced in 2018 that the house would be restored by Springfield Museums in a renovation project which hopes to see the house become an Innovation Centre for visitors.
Growing up as a child in wartime, Dr. Seuss was caught up in patriotism and was eager to prove it, considering his German heritage.
He was a boy scout for Troop 13 in Springfield, Massachusetts, who began selling war bonds along with scouts across the nation, as part of a mass campaign.
He was helped in his efforts by his grandfather who purchased $1000 worth of bonds and made Theodor one of the top-selling scouts in the area.
For their achievements, the top scouts were invited to receive an award from President Theodore Roosevelt at the Springfield Municipal Auditorium and so he lined up on the day, ready to accept his award.
Due to an unfortunate mix up, when the President made it to Theodor, at the end of the line, he didn’t have a medal left to give him and so said loudly “what’s this boy doing here?”, causing immense embarrassment for the young Dr. Seuss.
At 18, Theodor left his homestead to study at Dartmouth College, though he would return during the summer breaks to visit his family and share his tales of college. It was at college that he would continue to hone his talents.
According to his friends, when he walked into a room “everything became brighter, happier, funnier”.
Learn more about Dr. Seuss’ life and legacy in the YouTube video below.