Dr. Seuss Was Once Humiliated by President Theodore Roosevelt

Dr. Seuss hated doing public appearances. And it was all because of a traumatizing moment in his childhood when he was publicly humiliated by a president. Yup, the young Dr. Seuss was humiliated by President Theodore Roosevelt, and the moment made him swear off public appearances forever.

Theodore Geisel better known as Dr. Seuss poses for a portrait in December 1985 in Los Angeles, California | Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images
Theodore Geisel better known as Dr. Seuss poses for a portrait in December 1985 in Los Angeles, California | Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images

Teenage Dr. Seuss sold war bonds during World War I

Dr. Seuss’ real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel. He was born into a German-American family in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 2, 1904. He grew up in Springfield, and when he was 14 years old, he became one of the town’s best sellers of war bonds for the World War I effort, according to History.com.

To honor his work, he and the other nine top-selling Boy Scouts were to be honored in a public ceremony by President Roosevelt. But the president was only given nine medals, and Seuss was the last in line to receive his. When Roosevelt reached the young Seuss, he irritatingly exclaimed, “What’s this little boy doing here?” He was then awkwardly taken off stage.

The moment humiliated and scarred Seuss so much, it gave him permanent stage fright. From that moment on, he dreaded giving public appearances.

American author and illustrator Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) sits at his drafting table in his home office with a copy of his book, 'The Cat in the Hat', La Jolla, California, April 25, 1957 | Gene Lester/Getty Images
American author and illustrator Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) sits at his drafting table in his home office with a copy of his book, ‘The Cat in the Hat’, La Jolla, California, April 25, 1957 | Gene Lester/Getty Images

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Dr. Seuss came up with his famous pseudonym in college

You might have noticed that The Cat in the Hat author’s middle name was Seuss. Indeed, it was his mother, Henrietta Geisel’s, maiden name. And just like the dramatic story of how he developed stage fright, the story of how he came up with his pseudonym is also a captivating tale.

The writer was a senior at Dartmouth College in 1925 when he got in trouble with the police. In 1925, the prohibition era had been going strong for five years. Seuss and his friends were caught drinking a pint of bootleg gin by the local chief of police. Because of that, he lost his position as the editor-in-chief of Dartmouth’s humor magazine.

In quite the sneaky move, he ended up continuing to create cartoons for the publication under the pseudonyms “Seuss” and “T. Seuss.” A few years later, he added the “Dr.” in front of Seuss as a cheeky nod to his father, Theodor, who wanted him to study medicine.

After his first book, And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was published in 1937, his writing career took off. He went on to become one of the most successful authors in history. He died in 1991, but his estate is still one of the most profitable out of any dead celebrity. In 2020, he was the second-highest paid dead celebrity, according to Forbes. His estate earned $33 million this year, coming in second to Michael Jackson, whose estate earned $48 million.

Theodore Roosevelt might’ve been the grinch who stole his confidence that day, but it certainly didn’t stop him from becoming successful.