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The Seuss, the Whole Seuss, and Nothing But the Seuss
More than 500 objects drawn, written and inspired by the work of Springfield native Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. are now on display through January 5, 2003, at the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum in the special exhibition The Seuss, the Whole Seuss, and Nothing But the Seuss.
The objects -- toys and games, puppets and figurines, lunch boxes, plush figures, advertisements, books, illustrations, political cartoons, household items and other memorabilia -- are from the collection of Charles D. Cohen, guest curator of the exhibition. Cohen, a resident of South Deerfield, Mass., is a dentist by profession but a collector by calling. Over the years, he has become an expert on Geisel's work. His research of primary sources has led him to discoveries of previously unknown work as well as factual errors. He has stated that his purpose in collecting is to satisfy his own intellectual curiosity and to salvage and preserve the material for the future.
The Seuss, the Whole Seuss, and Nothing But the Seuss shows dozens of examples from every phase of Geisel's long career as a commercial artist, illustrator, political cartoonist, film maker, and prolific children's book author. In addition to a huge selection of children's books published under the pseudonyms Dr. Seuss, Theo LeSieg (Geisel spelled backwards), and Rosetta Stone, the exhibit features Theodor Geisel's earliest published verses and illustrations that were printed in his high school and college magazines.
Also included are a number of magazine covers and cartoons from Geisel's early professional career as an illustrator for.Judge magazine in New York, including the first cartoon in which he mentioned Flit, a pesticide spray made by Standard Oil. The cartoon caught the attention of the ad agency for the product and was the start of an extremely successful advertising campaign for Flit that has been credited as one of the first to use humor to sell a product.
The success of the Flit campaign was the beginning of Geisel's highly successful career in advertising and led to ads for Essolube Motor Oil featuring "Seuss Moto-Monsters." Newspapers, pamphlets, posters, and even a jigsaw puzzle from this early 1930s campaign are displayed in the exhibit, along with examples of ads he created for other many other products ranging from beer to ball bearings and from shaving cream to sugar.
In addition to his advertising work, Geisel also illustrated books for other writers. An especially rare example of his 1937 dust jacket for Austin Ripley's Mystery Puzzles is on display, along with other book illustrations. Eventually, however, Geisel realized that he could earn more as an author, and began working on a book of his own. After ten years as a commercial artist, his first book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, was published in 1937. The book and a carved wooden head of a "Mulberry Street Unicorn" that Geisel produced to help promote it are shown together in the exhibit.
During World War II, Geisel used his advertising skills to create his "Squander Bug" cartoon for the U.S. Treasury Department's War Savings Bonds & Stamps campaign. After he was inducted into the Army in 1943, he illustrated a pamphlet titled This Is Ann, written by children' s author Munro Leaf, to teach troops about the dangers of malaria. Examples of these pieces and other work from the war era can be found in the exhibit.
After the war, Geisel became interested in moving pictures and began to create television commercials and also wrote the script for the cartoon film Gerald McBoing-Boing. Visitors to the exhibit can view, on a digital screen, rare film footage of this and other clips that the museum has had restored -- some of which have not been seen by the public for more than 50 years.
As Dr. Seuss, he also wrote the script and lyrics and designed the sets for the feature film The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T. Promotional posters and plastic horns, harmonicas and miniature keyboards based on the whimsical musical instruments he invented for the movie are on display.
Some of Dr. Seuss's well-known characters such as Horton the Elephant and Bartholomew Cubbins first appeared in magazine short stories, sometimes with different names and companions. Many examples of these stories and illustrations show how his work evolved.
The Seuss, the Whole Seuss, and Nothing But the Seuss also contains a set of ceramic figures called Kreiss Moon-Beings, based on characters from three of Ted's books, that were produced without his knowledge or permission.
The toys, displayed with the illustrations they were patterned after, leave no doubt that they were based on Geisel's work but their specific sources went unnoticed by Geisel and his estate until they were brought to light in this exhibit.
For the Poynter Merry Menagerie plastic figures, another set of unauthorized merchandise based on his magazine illustrations front the 1930s, Geisel was able to prevent the company from using the Dr. Seuss logo signature on the base of the toys, but he was unable to stop their production and sale. A set of these creatures, trimmed with colorful fur, are also displayed with the cartoons they were derived from.
Dr. Seuss's most successful books, The Cat In The Hat and How The Grinch Stole Christmas, were both published in 1957. Several years after the books appeared, Geisel finally allowed the Revell company to produce the Dr. Seuss Zoo, a set of snap together plastic models, and Mattel to produce toys using familiar Seuss figures. Eventually, Seuss characters adorned inflatable furniture, watches, record albums, plush figures, games, dolls, ride-on toys, video games, puzzles, party decorations, bedroom accessories, and many, many other products. A huge selection of these objects is included in the exhibit.
One of the largest groupings is an assortment of Cat in the Hat figures produced over a span of three decades that shows how the three-dimensional versions of Dr. Seuss's most recognizable character have changed through the years from the striped, rag doll versions of the 1960s to the more familiar black plush figures of the 1980s.
In 1990, Random House published Oh, The Places You'll Go!, making this the last non-posthumous Dr. Seuss book. Theodor Geisel died on September 24, 1991. The final segment of the exhibit is of cartoon tributes to Dr. Seuss published following his death.
The Seuss, the Whole Seuss, and Nothing But the Seuss is on display in conjunction with the opening of the Dr. Seuss
National Memorial at the Quadrangle, the outdoor sculpture garden of larger-than-life
bronze statues of Dr. Seuss at his drawing board surrounded by some of his
most beloved characters.
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