Ted grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, wanting to be a professor. His immigrant Dad, the manager of a brewery, approved of this career choice because Dad wanted a better life for his son.
After finishing college at Dartmouth in the mid-1920s, That’s Ted at college in the image above. Ted chose Oxford to study English literature in preparation for exactly such a career. While at Oxford, Ted met a woman there, Helen, who convinced him that his real talent lay in a fairly new but potentially lucrative field: Magazine cartooning.
You see, Ted like to doodle, and he made funny drawings that elicited laughter from this woman. The pair hit it off and were eventually married. Ted returned to United States without completing his degree to pursue his new career in cartoons, attempting to sell to large magazines. This new career proved successful.
Then, in the 1930s, Ted expanded his graphic art talent into advertising, and he created several nationally successful advertising campaigns for such large corporations as Standard Oil, Ford, and NBC. That’s one of Ted’s ads in the picture below (for a product called Flit, an insecticide).
Between the magazine work and the advertising, Ted became wealthy, eventually making more money than many of his rich Dartmouth classmates. He and Helen traveled the world, which Ted felt helped his creativity. They lived a nice life. Children were not important to either of the couple. In fact, his wife once noted that Ted lived his whole life without kids and was very happy without them. Frankly, Ted never really liked children and often felt awkward around them.
This is important because, in 1936, Ted decided to write a children’s book. Helen had written some successful books for kids, and she encouraged Ted to give the genre a try. Perhaps not having a lot of experience around kids wasn’t the best background for writing a children’s book because Ted later said that the manuscript was rejected by over 40 different publishers. But, he persisted, and the book was eventually published by the firm one of his old Dartmouth classmates.
The book was a success, but, then, World War II broke out, and Ted found that he was a bit too old to join the military. So, he went to work creating political cartoons that helped the allied cause. He brought the same wonderfully creative energy to this patriotic effort that he had to the national advertising campaigns. Ted’s work proved to be incredibly influential in keeping both morale high at home and public opinion overseas pro-American.
After the war, rather than returning to the lucrative ad work, Ted resumed his book writing career, again targeting a children’s audience. One of his friends challenged him to create a book that was interesting to kids and that used a vocabulary of only 50 words. Ted accepted the challenge, and that book, too, became successful.
You’ve read it, in fact.
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.