Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dr. Seuss and Magazines (with corrections)

Iconic American illustrator and author Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904- 1991) best known for his children's books, the first of which was written in 1937, had a long and successful association with numerous magazines throughout his career.
Geisel started using his middle name while contributing to and editing his college (Dartmouth) humor magazine, Jack-O-Lantern and acquired the "Doctor" after 1928. The commonly held story of using it after being suspended from extracurricular activities for violating prohibition in 1924 may be less than reliable. My recent interest in Geisel began after acquiring a copy of the humor magazine Judge with a marvelous cover illustration by Suess on ebay a few weeks ago.

This triggered considerable research into this interesting and talented man. Beginning with "Dr. Seuss American Icon" by Philip Nel (Continuum Books, 2004), then a conversation with the ever knowledgable Richard West, followed by a recent enlightening and delightful conversation with Seuss zealot Dr. Charles D. Cohen, author of the highly illustrated and informative"The Seuss, the Whole Seuss and Nothing but the Seuss" (Random House, 2004), I am now prepared to present a reasonably informative and accurate post.

Issues of Jack-O-Lantern are extremely hard to come by outside of the major Seuss collections.
There are approximately eighty Geisel appearances between October 1921 and May 1925. Prior to this he contributed to his Springfield, Massachusetts high school newspaper, The Central Recorder, in 1919 and 1920.

After a brief sojourn to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he met his future wife, Geisel returned to America and started his career in earnest, contributing to numerous national magazines, most notably the humor periodicals Judge (approximately 225 contributions betwen October 1927 and 1938) and Life (Approximately 85 contributions between July 1929 and July 1934).
These include the six most highly collected covers.
Judge (5)
March 23, 1929 (his first national magazine cover)

January 3, 1931

January 9, 1932

March 1933

June 1933

Life (1)
May 1933

All of these issues are scarce but when they show up they usually sell for $100-200, depending on condition.
Dr. Cohen also made me aware of an in-house publication of the Warren Telechron Company called Telechronicle. Seuss did five covers in 1932 and 1933, all of which are essentially unobtainable.

Other prominent magazine contributions include:
College Humor (about 20) 1929-October 1932
Liberty (over 20) Starting June 1932
as well as few for University Magazine (1933) New York Woman (1936) Collier's (beginning in 1937) Ballyhoo (starting in 1937) and The Saturday Evening Post.

As you can see the doctor was a very busy and successful guy at this time, and this does not even include hundreds of ads, most notably for "Flit" a bug spray!

Between 1941 and June 1942 Geisel devoted the bulk of his talents to a newspaper PM. His anti-isolationist, pro-FDR political views at this time are quite apparant. During the war he participated in and wrote some of the famous series of training films, originally conceived by director Frank Capra as head of "Army-Navy Screen Magazine" featuring Private Snafu, an acronym for "Situation Normal- All Fouled (or insert approriate F word) Up!

After the war, the vast majority of time was spent on his classic children's books (over a hundred million copies in circulation) though there are a few random magazine appearances as well.

That pretty much does it for today. Its been an instructive and interesting learning experience and I'm happy to share it with you. Have a great day. C U again shortly.

My thanks to Dr. Cohen for his factual editing!

1 comment:

darwination said...

Awesomely fun and informative post on Seuss' career in magazines, thank you!