"America First," by Dr. Seuss, October 1, 1941

Dr. Seuss, my hero.

Before he became a popular children’s book author and illustrator, Dr. Seuss was a political cartoonist. In his two years at PM (1941-1943), a daily left-leaning New York newspaper, he drew over 400 editorial cartoons, more than half of which can be seen in the anthology, Dr. Seuss Goes to War. Many of the cartoons denounced Hitler and Mussolini and were highly critical of non-interventionists (aka, isolationists), most notably Charles Lindbergh who opposed America’s entry into the war.

Dr. Seuss, nee Theodor Geisl, strongly supported FDR’s war efforts. Armed with his trusty pen and cutting wit, he savagely attacked those (most notably Congress and the mainstream press) who criticized him. In 1943 he joined the military and became commander of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Force. He wrote several films including Your Job in Germany; Our Job in Japan; and the Private Snafu series of army training films.

Aaron Howard, a journalist at the Jewish Herald-Voice in Houston wrote a great piece about Dr. Seuss’s anti-Hitler cartoons, which I’m going to quote from quite liberally:

“Horton hated Hitler.”

 “Twelve years before the kind-hearted elephant became famous by exclaiming, “a person is a person no matter how small” in the Dr. Seuss children’s book “Horton Hears A Who”, the cartoon character made his appearance in an anti-isolationist political cartoon. It turns out that many of the animal characters that later became stars in Theodor Seuss Geisel’s books for kids first made their appearance in World War II-era political cartoons.

“Dr. Seuss apparently had a highly developed political consciousness. His early PM cartoons created after the beginning of World War II but before Pearl Harbor, attacked American isolationists. At the time, a significant segment of the U.S. public fought any effort by President Franklin Roosevelt to send aid to nations at war with the Axis powers. In one early 1942 cartoon, a Horton-like character sits in the branches of a tree almost overwhelmed by floodwaters. As human figures identified by an American flag construct an ark of relief in the distance, Horton calls out, ‘Hurry up with that ark.'”

Color me impressed. Like many of you, I’m sure, I had no idea of Dr. Seuss’s political activism in WWII. As if I didn’t love him enough already, now there’s even more reason to love.