Before He Wrote Children's Books, Dr. Seuss Drew Ads For Big Oil

Illustration for article titled Before He Wrote Children's Books, Dr. Seuss Drew Ads For Big Oil

Decades before Horton heard a Who and the Grinch stole Christmas, Theodor Seuss Geisel was an ad man. Returning from an aborted post graduate stint at Oxford in 1927, he needed a way to pay the bills.

His zany creatures turned out to be perfect salesmen for everything from motor oil and beer to mosquito repellent, lightbulbs, Fords and, yes, even Standard Oil.

Geisel's ad characters aren't exactly the Cat in the Hat or Red Fish, Blue Fish, but you'll recognize similarities in the furry, droopy creatures that graced the pages of magazine ads well into World War II — when he he did these cartoons. His career writing children's books didn't take off until the '50s, but as most of us know (and if you're from the U.S. and didn't grow up reading Dr. Seuss books, who are you?), he did pretty well.


Although he was never a real doctor — that was a pen name he picked up writing for the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern during his undergrad days — his career made him enough money to get a library named after him at UC San Diego, where his images are now on file.

Click through the gallery to meet the gearhead creatures that likely got Sam I Am grouchy enough not to want to eat Green Eggs And Ham: The Karbo-knockus, the Moto-raspus, and the Moto-muchus. I don't know about you, but I'd definitely like a Seuss-designed exhaust system on my next car.

Now the Lorax/Mazda tie-up make so much more sense.


Photo credit: University of California, San Diego Mandeville Special Collections Library

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Takuro Spirit

I don't get what the elephant one is for.... but cool article!