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Trouble in Geiselville?

The Wall Street Journal had a timely article (pdf) last week about the growing strength of Ted Geisel’s Dr. Seuss publishing empire — timely because rumors are flying around that his massive bequest to Dartmouth is less than a done deal. As we have reported, the College has been operating under the assumption that Geisel’s testament leaves virtually his entire estate to the College upon the demise of his second wife, Audrey. Ted did not have kids with either of his spouses, but Audrey did have two children in her first marriage.

If those kids challenge Ted’s will and the College does not get the massive windfall that it has been expecting (and which Jim Kim and his now-departed hires used as the basis for much Med School budgeting), then financial chaos could ensue at Geisel. Perhaps it has already started?

Seuss WSJ Comp.jpg

How much could Dr. Seuss Enterprises be worth? The Journal reports that “Sales of Dr. Seuss books climbed to 4.8 million units in the U.S. last year from 3.2 million in 2010, according to Nielsen BookScan” and “Movie adaptations have grossed more than $1.1 billion world-wide, according to media tracker Rentrak, with 2012’s The Lorax… the most successful yet.” Following a curve like that, especially if Random House can extend the franchise around the world, it not hard to imagine the whole business valued comfortably in the high nine figures. The bequest would be the biggest one in the history of American higher education. I hope that we haven’t blown it.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

I wonder how it was possible that Dartmouth produced well-educated, artistic, creative, gracious men like Ted Geisel ‘26 when the College was all-male, had no OPAL, no “Bias Impact Response Team,” no Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, no Women’s Center, no Title IX coordinator, no Gender Research Institute and so on…

Addendum: If the Geisel request falls through, do you think that the Trustees will rename the Medical School after the famous Dartmouth President who is now the famous head of the World Bank? After all, the guy famously golfs with President Obama.

Addendum: A vigilant reader adds an anecdote:

The name Dr. Seuss began after he was caught throwing a drinking party (which violated Prohibition), and Dartmouth insisted that he resign from all extracurricular activities. To keep writing for Jack-O-Lantern (Dartmouth College’s humor magazine), he became Dr. Seuss.

or two:

Dr. Seuss was called Theodor Geisel, after his father, the son of a German immigrant who settled in Springfield, Massachusetts. Dr. Seuss’s mother, also the daughter of German immigrants, was Henrietta Seuss, and when he appropriated the name for his books Dr. Seuss pronounced it in the German manner, “soice,” until he realized that Americans naturally read the name as “soose,” and that the American pronunciation of “Dr. Seuss” evoked a figure advantageous for an author of children’s books to be associated with-Mother Goose.

Addendum: Forbes estimates that Dr. Seuss earned $9M in 2013, making him the tenth-highest-earning deceased celebrity.

Addendum: More on the origins of the name Dr. Seuss from a Rauner publication:

…The other particularly significant feature of Geisel’s Jack-o-Lantern career relates to the spring of 1925, when apparently he first used the signature “Seuss.” The circumstances diat surrounded his employment of the later-famous pseudonym, he outlines as follows.

“The night before Easter of my senior year there were ten of us gathered in my room at the Randall Club. We had a pint of gin for ten people, so that proves nobody was really drinking. But Pa Randall, who hated merriment, called Chief Rood, the chief of police, and he himself in person raided us.”

“We all had to go before the dean, Craven Laycock, and we were all put on probation for defying the laws of Prohibition, and especially on Easter Evening.”

The disciplinary action imposed by Dean Laycock meant that the editor-in-chief of Jack-o-Lantern was relieved forthwith of his official responsibilities for running the magazine. There existed, however, the practical necessity of helping to bring out its succeeding numbers during the remainder of the academic year. Articles and jokes presented no problem, since they normally appeared anonymously; thus, anything the deposed editor might do in that area could be completely invisible as to its source.

Cartoons, on the other hand, usually being signed contributions, did present a dilemma; and it was a dilemma Theodor Seuss Geisel resolved by publishing some of his cartoons entirely without signature and by attributing others of them to fictitious sources.

The final four Jacko issues in the spring of 1925 contained, accordingly, a number of Geisel cartoons anonymously inserted or carrying utterly fanciful cognomens (such as “L. Burbank” “Thos. Mott Osborne ‘27,” and “D. G. Rossetti ‘25”), and two cartoons,
in the number of April twenty-second, had affixed to them his own middle name (in one case “Seuss” alone and in the other “T. Seuss”).

“To what extent this corny subterfuge fooled the dean, I never found out. But that’s how ‘Seuss’ first came to be used as my signature. The ‘Dr.’ was added later on.”

Dr. Seuss drinks gin?


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