Cover image for Becoming Dr. Seuss : Theodor Geisel and the making of an American imagination
Becoming Dr. Seuss : Theodor Geisel and the making of an American imagination
Large print ed.
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795 pages (large print) ; 23 cm.
Minnows into whales 1904-1921 -- The slob generation 1921-1925 -- Strange beasts 1925-1926 -- The flit 1927-1936 -- Brat books 1936-1940 -- Cockeyed crusader 1940-1943 -- Snafu 1943-1946 -- A good profession 1946-1949 -- A person's a person 1950-1954 -- A literary straitjacket 1954-1957 -- Beginner books 1958-1960 -- The work 1961-1963 -- Stink. Stank. Stunk. 1963-1967 -- I intend to go on doing just what I do 1967-1971 -- You'll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut 1971-1978 -- A few years longer 1979-1984 -- Off and away 1984-1991.
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The definitive, fascinating, all-reaching biography of Dr. Seuss Dr. Seuss is a classic American icon. His work has defined our childhoods and the childhoods of our own children. More than twenty-five years after his death, his books continue to find new readers, now grossing over half a billion dollars in sales. His whimsical illustrations and silly, simple rhymes are timeless favorites because, quite simply, he makes us laugh. Theodor Geisel, however, led a life that goes much deeper than the prolific and beloved children's book author. In fact, the allure and fascination of Dr. Seuss begins with this second, more radical side. He had a successful career as a political cartoonist, and his political leanings can be felt throughout his books--remember the environmentalist of The Lorax? Geisel was a complicated man, who introduced generations to the wonders of reading while teaching young people about empathy and how to treat others well. --


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Book LP 921 SEUSS 0 1

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A New York Times Bestselling AuthorDr. Seuss is an American icon. Whimsical and wonderful, his work defined our childhoods and those of our children. His silly rhymes are a bottomless well of magic; his illustrations timeless favorites that make us laugh. The Grinch, the Cat in the Hat, and Horton, are in his troupe of beloved creations. Yet Theodor Geisel had another, more radical side, where the allure and fascination of his Seussian alter ego begins. Geisel was a complicated man on an important mission: introduce generations to the wonders of reading while teaching them about empathy and how to treat others well.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Biographer Jones (George Lucas) delivers a comprehensive and thoughtful look at famed children's author Theodor Geisel (1904-1991). The book's early sections reveal Geisel-Seuss was his mother's maiden name-as an indifferent student who found his calling in humor and drawing, moving from Dartmouth College's Jacko magazine, to advertising, to Frank Capra's Army information unit during WWII. Though he entered children's literature on a fluke-an otherwise restrictive contract with advertising client Standard Oil didn't bar him from it-he soon became convinced of this work's importance. Determined to make reading fun and never talk down to children, he produced his now-familiar classics, with their zany illustrations and tongue-tickling texts. In addition to the fun, however, Geisel did feel compelled to address important issues at times, such as environmentalism in The Lorax. Jones does not ignore problems in Geisel's early work, including some racial stereotypes. He also gives full credit to Geisel's first wife, Helen, as a guiding hand for some of Geisel's best-loved books. While acknowledging Geisel's flaws and debts to others, Jones convincingly shows him as a transformative figure in children's publishing, both as author and cofounder of the Beginner Books imprint. Fans of Dr. Seuss will find much to love in this candid but admiring portrait. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

A rich, anecdotal biography of one of the bestselling authors in publishing history.Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991), aka Dr. Seuss, created more than 60 books, classified mostly as readers for children. However, as Jones (George Lucas: A Life, 2016, etc.) points out in this engaging, page-turning work of Seuss scholarship, Geisel was writing and illustrating for children and adults simultaneously. Some of his books could be considered in the vanguard of activism about environmental degradation (The Lorax), nuclear war (The Butter Battle Book), and an increasingly geriatric society (You're Only Old Once and Oh, the Places You'll Go). During his Massachusetts childhood and education at Dartmouth and then Oxford, Geisel developed his talent for drawing comic figures; early in his career, he earned his livelihood as a creator of advertisements for commercial products, including an insecticide. The shift to writing books for children occurred gradually, surprising almost everybody, including Geisel himself, who never had children. Used to being perceived as a funny guy, Geisel evolved into a serious thinker about how to develop books that would encourage children to read while also enjoying the learning process. Jones is particularly masterful in this vein, showing how Geisel, his wife, filmmaker/publisher Bennett Cerf, and other key collaborators collectively revolutionized reading education, with Dr. Seuss always reserving the final say. "Nearly thirty years after his death," writes the author, "books by Dr. Seuss still sell as well and as fast as ever, rivaled only by the Harry Potter books by the brilliant J.K. RowlingGeisel's natural heir, as she reignited the same love for books in today's young readers that Dr. Seuss had first sparkedfifty years earlier." Though the narrative is strictly chronological, it never bogs down because the character sketches and publishing anecdotes are so well-rendered, and Jones is especially skillful with foreshadowing. Although sometimes exasperating to work with because of his exacting standards, Geisel comes across as a mostly kind, well-intentioned person.Whether readers are familiar with Dr. Seuss books or not, they will find this biography absorbing and fascinating. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

No, Dr. Seuss did not live on Mulberry Street! Instead, when he was young, Theodor (he dropped the e for some reason) Seuss Geisel resided two miles south on Fairfield Street in Springfield, Massachusetts. Now, more than 100 years later, we have this massive, loving biography, which aims to cover it all: childhood influences on his adult work; his Dartmouth experience; his ad-man years ( Quick, Henry, the FLIT! ), the tepid success of his first five children's books; and the spectacular successes of his later years. Don't expect a lot of critical analysis, though. Jones is more interested in straight reportage. But what about recent Twitterverse allegations that Geisel was a racist? To his credit, Jones acknowledges Geisel's employment of some racial stereotypes in his children's books and editorial cartoons for the newspaper PM, and his lack of female characters. What is not addressed is the current charge that the depiction of The Cat in the Hat was inspired by nineteenth-century minstrel shows. History will be the judge of that, but this biography stands as a straightforward record of Geisel's life and career.--Michael Cart Copyright 2019 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

AT FIRST, the subtitle of Brian Jay Jones's new life of Dr. Seuss - "Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination" - seems ill chosen. Surely, the newly arriving reader thinks, it ought to be "Theodor Geisel and the Making of the American Imagination," since few authors can have had more influence on the inner workings of the American mind than Geisel, who, in his guise as the good doctor of children's books, reshaped everything from the beat of our doggerel to our notions of the ideal color of eggs and ham. But only halfway through the book the subtitle seems shrewdly chosen, and more than borne out by the material. Geisels sensibility, it turns out, was far more absorbent, and far more pliable, than one would have imagined, turned in many different directions by the winds of his era, and changed again and again by his contact with a kind of all-star roster of mid-20th-century creative exemplars. Unlike most of the great children's book authors and illustrators - Edward Lear, Beatrix Potter - Geisel was not in any way an obsessive or driven visionary, a prisoner of childhood locked in his own imagery or mythology. Instead, he worked (and could have easily stayed in) advertising, animation and political cartooning - to all of which he was, you soon get the sense, more naturally inclined than to what he called, cheerfully, "brat books." (He never had children of his own, nor seems to have liked other people's much. "I like children in the same way that I like people," was his tactful but giveaway standard answer.) Geisel/Seuss, it turns out, made a shrewd though far from cynical decision to write to, though never down to, an audience of children at a moment when that audience was becoming a market - and though his own values and imagination shaped the books he made, his choice to make those kinds of books in the first place turns out in part to have been a response to the new market for them. He was rooted in a place: There's an actual Mulberry Street in Springfield, Mass., where Geisel grew up during the World War I era. His was a German-American family of a kind whose centrality to American experience would later get erased a bit by historical circumstance, but was an extremely strong cultural type - as celebrated by H. L. Mencken - for a long time. His father was a brewer, and Springfield, perhaps most significantly, a place where a culture of German and Yankee ingenuity was very much alive. (Basketball had been invented there in a lucky afternoon.) This spirit of cuckoo-clock engineering and enterprise was dominant for Geisel throughout his life - he was always ready for the new angle, the unexpected entrepreneurial approach to publishing, the sharp commercial play. After good college years at Dartmouth, where his natural style as a hard-edge, fluid-lined cartoonist was already in place, he quickly got to New York, where, in the 1920s, he pursued a joyful life as a freelance cartoonist at a time when that was a real career. From there he made a natural leap into advertising, becoming responsible for the "Quick, Henry! The Flit!" insecticide campaign that older people still smile to remember, and then, eager to find a way out of mere ad-making, in 1941 went to the progressive newspaper PM as their chief editorial cartoonist, where he was bravely anti-Lindbergh and sadly anti-JapaneseAmerican. (The war had ugly effects on Geisel's view of Asians, as it did on so many. In addition to the early anti-Japanese-American cartoons, a later image of a "Chinaman" from "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street" has been much condemned, and even eliminated, in its mural form, from the Seuss museum in Springfield. On the other hand, Jones establishes that the civilization of microscopic creatures called "Whos" in "Horton Hears a Who!" was inspired by a 1953 visit Geisel took to Japan and was his way of "offering an open hand of friendship to the Japanese. ... telling them they mattered and deserved to be taken care of in a postwar world.") What's amazing is how completely consistent and identifiable Geisel's style is from first to last and in all his modes, political or commercial, as later in his children's books: the almond-shaped faces caught in wide-eyed emotion - always extreme, startled or snooty - the goofy serpentinenecked and tonsured imaginary animals, with their distinctly emaciated limbs; the slender, animated trees, even the leaping leering chubby fish and the fluorescent palette; you could tell a Seuss page from anyone else's right from the start. (He paid a visit to Paris in 1926, at the height of the pictorial, Miró and Klee phase of the Surrealist movement, and seems to have been affected at least by the license it encouraged.) The early successes landed him an apartment on Park Avenue, but it was only during World War II, when he got pulled into the filmmaking unit of the Signal Corps, that, as Jones shows, he began to become a skilled storyteller. A direct subordinate of no less a figure than the director Frank Capra, he was soon put together with the inspired Looney Times animator Chuck Jones, another instinctive genius. Geisel later credited Capra and Jones together for showing him the virtues of crispness and "conciseness" in storytelling, ones that his naturally prolix imagination instinctively resisted. He soon invented and drew a wide-eyed character, Private Snafu - the name was a once famous acronym - who became the hero of a series of bizarre "instructional" cartoons. The Geisel-Jones Private Snafu cartoons - you can blessedly see a lot of them on YouTlibe - make for hallucinatory watching now, since, though drawn and animated in the classic Warner Brothers, style, they are dense with eroticized female pinups, created to appeal to a G.I. audience. Watching them now is like wandering into the forbidden corners of Bugs Bunny's imagination. Even before the war, Geisel-as-Seuss had won the sponsorship of Bennett Cerf at the new publishing firm Random House, who, in a show of support rare then and almost unknown now, stuck with him through a raft of middling successes in the certainty that Geisel had one big kids' book in him. Sticking with the "brat market," though, Jones makes plain, was also a good business plan. In 1953, Phyllis Jackson, Geisel's literary agent, told him, as Jones recounts it, that "there was something happening in America ... there was a middle class blossoming in the suburbs, and they were all having kids." "The children's market is building," Jackson declared, "and you have a reputation." This enterprise, faltering at first, was set alight the next year by a sudden serendipity. In one of those peculiarly American moments of hand-wringing cultural panic - like the one about video games now, or rap lyrics in the 1980s - pundits in the mid-1950s decided that kids were too drawn to "lurid" comic books instead of dull "school readers," and therefore failing to learn to read, putting us behind in some Cold War competition or another. John Hersey suggested in a worried piece in Life that children's writers like Seuss might be the ones to save kids for reading and from the temptation of the comics, and this vague idea soon became a publishing "concept." Restricted to a 240-word vocabulary, and with the decision to put one picture per page, "The Cat in the Hat" was born. The success of "The Cat in the Hat" - "nothing short of a phenomenon" is how Jones puts it - seemed indeed to counter the lure of the comics. And though one can hardly call Seuss' work equivalently lurid, it is vulgar in the best, positive sense: bracingly direct and unafraid of silliness, obviously easy to enjoy and always unabashedly fun in the first instance. When "Green Eggs and Ham" was published three years later, it was with an even more restricted word count and even wilder comic effect. As so often happens, awkward discipline produced better art; a limited vocabulary produced a more poignantly memorable poetry and constraints made for cultural advance - or at least for a better-selling children's book. The underlying drama of "The Cat in the Hat" - the cat's startling home invasion, taking over the house while Mom is away - is also a reminder that the key to kids' books is often to combine a fascination with anarchy with a taste for the domestic. Something crazy happens and then it stops, safely. (The real genius of the book is the sudden introduction of Thing One and Thing Two, brought in by the Cat and called nothing more, a bit of meta-humor that seems almost postmodern.) Understanding the calculating sources of Dr. Seuss' work doesn't make it less consequential, but it does make it more specific: The note of breezy inconsequence that is part of his books' charm - until he got so big that he became, it seems, a little frozen, made fretful by his own fame - is, one realizes, partly owing to his not being overinvested in their importance. The absence of obvious moralizing, the catch-as-catch-can prosody, the raggedy serendipity of his long-necked and balding birds and animals turn out to spring from someplace deep in his sly and adaptable personality. Commercial motives can sometimes produce work of superior charm. Geisel was already a middleaged man when mega-success hit, and his later life, we learn, was largely productive, though marked by a singular catastrophe. His devoted first wife, Helen, who frequently suffered from poor health - including a bout of Guillain-Barré syndrome that left her temporarily paralyzed, and, later, a minor stroke - committed suicide in 1967 by an overdose of drugs. (Geisel, Jones reveals, had been having an affair with a friend's wife, whom he later married, happily, and the affair may or may not have been causal to Helen's suicide.) By then he was as much a business as an author, with million-dollar contracts for toys and a series of successful television specials. Fitfully political, he eventually won a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for a rather obvious anti-nuclear-war allegory called "The Butter Battle Book." jones on the whole spends more time on Seuss' prolific drawing than on his rhyming, a reasonable choice. Geisel was never a painstaking writer of nonsense verse. Lines like "And the Nupboards in the Cupboards. I do like them a lot. But that Nooth Grush on my toothbrush... Well, some are nice but he is not" are easy. Anyone can make rhymes when there are no rules and you get to make up the words; the art of rhyming is in finding actual words in unexpected collisions that resolve in grace. Indeed, Seuss can generally look inelegant compared with his greatest contemporary rivals; place him against Maurice Sendak's mysterious vision and delicately detailed designs, or Charles Schulz's sparely drawn, Chekhovian melancholy, and Seuss looks still like a prewar entertainer. Yet it works. Jones's previous biographies were of Jim Henson and George Lucas, and Geisel seems intuitively a good third to add to the trilogy, or, rather, a foundation for the others. Like the later two men, Geisel was an American master who married shrewd commercial instincts and a weakness for something close to formula with a genuinely overflowing and companionate visual style. It wasn't a bad imagination - indeed, it was a great one; call him Thing Number One! - for America to have made. You could tell a Seuss page from anyone else's from the start. ADAM gopnik is the author, most recently, of "A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism" and has written two fantasies for children, "The King in the Window" and "The Steps Across the Water."

Library Journal Review

Jones (George Lucas) gets it right in this delightful and informative biography, which details how the widely admired Dr. Seuss emerged from the lesser-known but talented Theodor Geisel (1904-91). The American cartoonist and author's first step toward fame was an ad campaign for a bug spray, but it was his best-selling children's books, especially The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, that made him a household name. Jones notes how Geisel could be a pleasant companion but also a pain in the neck. The near-constant warfare between the artist and Phyllis Cerf (wife of Random House publisher Bennett Cerf) over almost all details of any work published in their Beginner Books line makes for fascinating reading. Jones gives careful attention to the death of Geisel's first wife, Helen, who took her life in 1961, at age 69. A year later he married film producer Audrey Stone, with whom he lived until his death 23 years later, writing and drawing almost to the very end. VERDICT This attractive biography should be on the bedside reading table of thousands of Dr. Seuss lovers, and deservedly so.-David Keymer, Cleveland © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1   Minnows Into Whales   1904-1921   On paper, Mulberry Street doesn't look like much. It's just another residential street on the city map of Springfield, Massachusetts, a slightly bent capital letter L lying on its back, not much more than a pass-through between the busier streets of Union and Maple. The street itself is quiet and relatively nondescript, with very little indication that it's a major destination on a map of the American imagination.   But sure enough, it was here-at least as told in the tale by Springfield's own Dr. Seuss-that a little boy named Marco used his imagination to transform a simple horse and wagon into a colorful spectacle, with a brass band pulled by an elephant-riding sultan, flanked by motorcycle policemen and confetti-dumping airplanes, while enthusiastically being reviewed by the top-hatted mayor and the town aldermen. Modern-day pilgrims still flock to Mulberry Street, slowly trolling the neighborhood, windows down, hoping to catch a glimpse of something-anything-that inspired the magnificent imaginations of Marco and Dr. Seuss. Residents smile knowingly, pausing over lawn mowers and trunks still filled with groceries to answer the same question from visiting wayfarers.   "Where did Dr. Seuss live?"   The answer, it seems, is as disappointing as discovering London's 221B Baker Street is actually home to a bank, and never was home to Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Seuss didn't live on Mulberry Street at all. Instead, pilgrims are directed to another spot on the map, another inverted L about two miles south: Fairfield Street. This is where Dr. Seuss grew up, and the house he lived in for nearly twenty years, at number 74, is still there, looking much as it did during his lifetime.   Parts of Springfield, in fact, look as they did during Dr. Seuss's day-or at least the places that shaped his imagination and influenced his art can still be seen if one knows where to look. A few blocks from Fairfield on Howard Street stands the old armory. Its curved stone turrets are reflected in the castles populating so many Seuss books. Over in Forest Park, the Barney Mausoleum-built with a family fortune earned by inventing and selling clamp-on ice skates-looms two stories above the pavement, with the curving staircases and pillared archways that would show up in The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. And the nearby Forest Park Zoo? That was where "[I tried to] draw the animals," said Dr. Seuss later. "I didn't know how to draw, so they'd come out strange."   Dr. Seuss didn't produce Springfield's only creations. Founded by the Puritan William Pynchon in 1636 on a high bluff overlooking the Connecticut River, Springfield has been nurturing and stirring American imaginations for nearly three hundred years. American independence was won with the reliable ammunition and gun carriages produced at the Springfield Armory beginning in 1777. (A decade later, Daniel Shays-spouting a different kind of idealism-would attempt to steal muskets and ammunition from the same armory in a thwarted attempt to overthrow the government of Massachusetts.) By 1795, Springfield Armory would regularly be producing the muskets that would be carried on the shoulders of American soldiers all the way through the War of 1812 and on into the Civil War.   Weaponry wasn't Springfield's only specialty; true, local businessmen Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson, who developed the firearms company that bore their last names, had roots in the town-but so, too, did Charles Goodyear, who discovered and patented the process for making vulcanized rubber in a small Springfield factory in 1844. A year earlier, two industrious Springfield publishers, brothers Charles and George Merriam, acquired the rights to publish Noah Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language, marking the founding of another iconic American brand.   There was Milton Bradley, who would launch the American board game industry by cranking out the earliest incarnations of The Game of Life in his lithography studio in 1860. Over on State Street, the beloved and reliable Indian motorcycles would roll out of the company's Springfield factory from 1901 until 1953. Even modern sports would find their origins in the town when in 1891 a Canadian-born physical education teacher named James Naismith, looking to keep his classes occupied through the long, cold Massachusetts winters, mounted a peach basket on a ten-foot pole in the gymnasium at the International YMCA Training School and-opting not to name the game after himself-christened the new game basketball.   Springfield, then, could unequivocally and rightly stake a claim as a major landmark on the frontier of American inventiveness and imagination. Dr. Seuss himself was a construct of one of those unique American minds: a comfortable coat regularly shrugged on and off at will by one of Springfield's most famous sons, Theodor Seuss Geisel. The dropped e at the end of Theodor would forever perplex journalists and copyeditors, but to Theodor-Dr. Seuss himself-it wouldn't much matter. Everyone would always call him Ted.     Theodor Seuss Geisel could trace his roots back to the German town of MYhlhausen, a tiny village squatting on the western shore of a hairpin turn in the Enz River, in what is now the German state of Baden-WYrttemberg. It was here, in 1650, that Joseph Geissel married Catharina Loth; the extra s would be dropped in later generations, and well before TedÕs grandfather was born in July 1844. Born Theodor Adolph Geisel in MYlhausen, T. A. Geisel moved to nearby Pforzheim at age fourteen to enter into a six-year apprenticeship with a local jeweler. From there, he joined the German cavalry-T. A. Geisel would always have a love for horses, and even at only five feet six, he stood tall in the saddle-and served in the German army for the seven-week Austro-Prussian War that quickly sparked, flared, and burned out in the summer of 1866.     ¥¥¥¥   "My grandfather was a German cavalry officer who decided he didn't want to be one," Ted said-and in 1869, twenty-five-year-old T. A. Geisel stepped onto the steamship Ohio at the port in Bremen, bound for the United States, where members of his extended family had secured him a job in the store of Springfield jeweler J. B. Rumrill. If Geisel missed his homeland, he seemed only ever looking forward, never back. In 1871, he married Christine Schmaelzle, another recent German immigrant four years his junior. Two children would follow shortly. In 1875, he became an American citizen.   T.A. built a reputation as a talented jeweler-in his five years in Springfield, he had become Springfield's go-to designer for brooches-but in 1876 he abandoned brooches for booze, giving up the jeweling trade entirely to begin a new career as a brewer ("a slight jump," his grandson said archly). Pooling his savings with those of a young brewer's apprentice named Christian Kalmbach, T.A. purchased a small brick brewing plant located way out on Boston Road on the east side of town, right at the last stop on the horsecar line.   While the facility they purchased was primitive and deemed "feeble" by locals-just a few wooden buildings that produced barely a thousand barrels of beer annually-the proprietors of the new Kalmbach & Geisel Brewery proved remarkably ambitious and adept both as businessmen and brewers. Under the guidance of T. A. Geisel, who had a knack for property and structures, the wooden brewery quickly expanded into one of the largest in the region, becoming a "magnificent" compound of redbrick buildings surrounding a central courtyard and eventually taking up twelve grassy acres.   For a while, the Geisels lived on the grounds of the brewing compound, then took a small cottage directly across from the brewery on State Street. It was here, in the shadow of the smokestack of the Kalmbach & Geisel Brewery, that T.A. and Christine Geisel had their fourth child and first son, Theodor Robert Geisel-Dr. Seuss's father-on June 28, 1879. In the coming decade, there would be two more surviving children, Adolph and Christine-but as the first son and namesake, it was T.R. who was expected to follow in his father's footsteps in the brewing industry.   Before T.R. was three, the brewery that once produced less than a thousand barrels of beer in a year was delivering at least that much in a single day, fanning a small army of beer wagons out across Springfield every morning, each distinctive black and gold wagon drawn by majestic four-horse teams. As a boy, T.R. would rise early to head off to school; his father, meanwhile, had already been up for hours, overseeing the several hundred barrels of Kalmbach & Geisel beer that were loaded onto trains to ship daily through all of New England. "It was good beer, too," said Ted-so good, in fact, that Kalmbach & Geisel would be fondly referred to by locals as "Come back and guzzle."   And guzzle the locals did-so much so that the brewery would continue to grow and thrive over the next decade, prompting T.A. to add an enormous icehouse and replace their compound of buildings with a brand-new state-of-the-art three-story brick structure. In 1893, with profits soaring and more than 400,000 barrels of beer rolling out annually, T.A. bought out Christian Kalmbach, renamed the business the Highland Brewing Company, and immediately designated himself as the new organization's president, treasurer, and manager.   Five years later, the still-growing Highland Brewing Company was sold and incorporated-along with several local rivals, including the Hampden Brewing Company, just up the river in Willimansett-to form the Springfield Breweries Company. T.A. pocketed his profits but insisted on remaining as manager of the Highland facility, and jockeyed to have his nineteen-year-old son T.R. hired as treasurer for the entire organization. Despite the lofty title and elevated responsibilities, T.R. Geisel would modestly list his occupation simply as "bookkeeper."   T.A., however, would always proudly identify himself as a brewer, a title anyone of German extraction would bear with particular satisfaction. As the proprietor of one of New England's most successful breweries-and an active member of some of the leading German clubs of Springfield-T.A. was understandably a proud man. Devoted to family-he would insist his children live under his own roof until they married-T.A. had only one real hobby: his beautiful team of horses, which he kept decked out in the finest gear. With his broad shoulders, a wide mustache that curled slightly at the ends, and piercing blue eyes that seemed set in a perpetual squint, T.A. was imperial in bearing, though not imposing-he was a bit too short for that. His grandson, however, would always remember him in a slightly mythic manner, recalling his Gro§vater as wearing "boiled white shirts and diamond studs and [who] sat in deep leather chairs with Persian rugs at his feet."   By 1901, T.A. was ready to become his own boss again, and enlisted twenty-two-year-old T.R. as his partner for his newest start-up endeavor, the Liberty Brewing Company, with riverside offices at the busy corner at Liberty and Charles Streets. This time, T.R. was appointed as both treasurer and secretary of the company, titles he was proud to boast of and which he hoped would impress the young woman he'd been wooing for a year, a twenty-three-year-old baker's daughter named Henrietta Seuss.   Like T.R., Henrietta-called "Nettie"-was a first-generation Springfielder. Born May 13, 1878, she was the daughter of George and Margaretha Seuss, who had emigrated from Bavaria and established a successful bakery in their new hometown. Like the Geisels, the Seusses were active in Springfield's German community. George Seuss, in fact, had been a founder of the popular Springfield Turnverein, a social club and gymnasium with a heavily German clientele, and also served as a city alderman. Seuss's popular bakery, located in the heart of downtown Springfield, was hard to miss-one only had to follow one's nose to find it on Howard Street, practically in the shadow of the massive Springfield Armory. If brewing was a family business for the Geisels, the bakery was similarly a Seussian family affair; Nettie, in fact, had worked at the bakery since the age of fifteen, her loyalty to the family firm overriding her desire to attend college.   T.R. and Nettie made an attractive, if somewhat intimidating, couple. Both were six feet tall and athletic in build. Nettie, a dark-haired beauty, weighed nearly two hundred pounds, was an expert diver, and in a town that took marksmanship seriously-it was the home of Smith & Wesson, after all-was a crack shot with a rifle. Like his father, T.R. was dark-haired and dark-eyed, with a regal bearing. He also was an accomplished horseman, as well as one of the very best sharpshooters in the region; in 1902, he would hold the world record for shooting at two hundred yards.   The two seem to have met some resistance to their relationship. On August 31, 1901, the young couple sneaked away to New York and covertly married, a secret they seem to have kept until the news finally trickled into the pages of the Springfield Republican nearly a year later. "The announcement was as much a surprise to their closest friends as to others," the Republican reported. "[N]o one had been given an inkling of what had happened."   The announcement of the marriage also sparked some tut-tutting from those in the burgeoning temperance movement-a crusade that would soon have far-reaching consequences for the Geisels-who disapproved of the matrimonial merging of the Seuss and Geisel businesses. "Seuss the baker puts the staff of life in people's mouths," commented one wag, while "Geisel the brewer takes it out and pours beer there instead, causing the children of drinkers to suffer the pangs of hunger."   Such criticism aside, the secret likely couldn't have been kept much longer anyway; by the time of the marriage's revelation in March, Nettie was visibly pregnant with their first child-and on July 4, 1902, gave birth to a daughter they named Margaretha Christine Geisel. T.R. would dotingly call her Marnie, a nickname that would stick. That same year, T. A. Geisel-now officially a Gro§vater himself-would move from his modest cottage on State Street to a spacious house at 162 Sumner Avenue, the grandest street in Springfield, lined with large Victorian houses and bordering the gigantic Forest Park on the park's short north end. The house had plenty of room for family, but T.R. and Nettie seem to have preferred living with or near her parents in Howard Street instead, perhaps because the Seusses lived within walking distance of T.R.'s offices at the Liberty Brewing Company.   It was here, in the Seuss house at 22 Howard Street-just down the street from the Seuss family bakery-that T.R. and Nettie Geisel had their second child and first son on March 2, 1904, a cold but fair-weathered Wednesday. Like his father and grandfather before him, the boy was named Theodor, with the middle name Seuss-pronounced Soyce, in proper German fashion-affixed as a recognition of his mother's side of the family. Excerpted from Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay Jones All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.