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The Dartmouth
April 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Minear speaks on works of Dr. Seuss

In a lecture and slide-show yesterday afternoon, University of Massachusetts Amherst History Professor Richard Minear presented the lesser known political cartoons of popular children's author and cartoonist Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel '25.

Minear collected 200 of the 400 Geisel cartoons published by the New York newsmagazine PM in 1941 and 1942 in his recent book "Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel."

"Dr. Seuss has become a cultural icon, as a human being he has disappeared, hopefully this project will refocus the attention," Minear said.

The Leftist-oriented PM was published daily from 1940 to 1948. The daily was entirely funded by subscription revenues and did not accept advertising.

No other mainstream U.S. newspaper was so outspoken as PM on anti-Semitism, isolationism and racial equality issues.

Geisel's cartoons reflected the paper's editorial stance. He attacked US isolationists and isolationist leaders, anti-Semitism and racial bias, Minear said.

One cartoon presented at yesterday's lecture depicts a mother reading "Adolf the Wolf" to her two children. "And the wolf chewed up the children and spit out their bones so it really didn't matter," reads the cartoon's caption.

Another Geisel cartoon shows an Uncle Sam figure labeled War Industry at a piano. The black keys are covered with dust.

A little figure in the corner urges "Listen maestro, if you want to get real harmony, use the black keys as well as the white."

Other Geisel cartoons poked fun at Axis leaders.

One cartoon showed a naked Mussolini with a strategically placed copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf. The caption on this drawing reads, "Bundles for Benito -- Send anything but books (I've already got one)."

"While Dr. Seuss and PM are on the side of the angels with regards to ant-Semitism and anti-Black sentiments, their position on the Japanese is unsatisfying" Minear said.

Geisel's cartoons depict a Japanese stereotype and buy into the same propaganda that allowed the internment of over 120,000 Japanese-Americans, two-thirds of which were American citizens, Minear said.

This anti-Japanese bias was indicative of U.S. society in general at the time, he said.

Many of the other drawings focussed on morale-building and supporting to the war efforts at home, Minear said. The first Geisel war cartoon he had seen was an 1942 advertisement for US War Bonds in the Amherst college student newspaper.

In 1942, Geisel joined the Frank Capra production unit that produced the U.S. government sponsored "Why We Fight" movie series.

After the war he received two Academy Awards for documentary films, before attaining international acclaim as a children's illustrator and author.

Approximately 40 students and community members attended the lecture in 28 Silsby Hall.