Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dr. Seuss, Political Cartoonist

by Stephen J. Gertz

Seuss's Uncle Sam.

From 1941 through 1943, Theodore Seuss Geisel (1904-1991) created political cartoons for PM Daily, wartime propaganda for the left-leaning newspaper issued in New York by Field Productions, ultimately contributing 400 to PM's editorial and front page.

A complete run of PM featuring all of Geisel's wartime cartoons - all 146 issues - has just come into the marketplace. Each of the cartoons is highlighted by his pro-American, anti-isolationist views, and signed "Dr. Seuss," long before Geisel became the beloved Dr. Seuss, grand master of children's literature.

The Saturday Evening Post had published his first cartoon under the name Seuss in 1927. He subsequently became a successful advertising artist and writer, and, in 1937, had the first of his over sixty children's books published, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins followed in 1938, The King's Stilts and The Seven Lady Godivas in the next year, and Horton Hatches the Egg in 1940.

The crisis in Europe troubled him deeply. Mussolini irritated him and Seuss drew a cartoon lampooning Il Duce, submitted it to PM, which accepted it and then kept him busy warning of Fascism and isolationism, taking particular glee against American hero, isolationist, and Nazi-sympathizer Charles Lindbergh. He attacked wartime prejudice against Jews and black Americans. He took shots at anyone who criticized President Roosevelt's handling of the war, including Congress and the press; criticism of aid to the Soviet Union; anti-Communist paranoia; rumor-mongers; and anything and anybody he considered to be giving aid to the Nazis and Japanese, sowing disunity, and undermining the war effort.

Dr. Seuss's experience as a wartime political cartoonist influenced his later books for kids. Horton Hears a Who (1954) is a parable about post-war relations amongst the U.S., the Soviet Union, and Japan. Yertle the Turtle (1958) warns of the dangers of those who wish to rule the world, Yertle standing in for Hitler. Seuss later admitted that when he first drew Yertle the turtle had an Adolf brush mustache.

The faces, figures, creatures, and backgrounds we associate with Geisel's children's books are on display in these cartoons, which share remarkable similarities to the unique worlds he created for children, Dr. Seuss before he became DR. SEUSS.

Images courtesy of Royal Books, currently offering this collection, with our thanks.

Of Related Interest:

Lost, Unpublished Dr. Seuss Manuscript Surfaces.

Lost Dr. Seuss Manuscript Sells For $34,004.

Rare, Unpublished Dr. Seuss Original Artwork Comes To Auction.

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