Seuss in Springfield Matching Activity

Ted spent his boyhood in Springfield, Massachusetts and it is thought that the city’s zoo, ornate buildings, grand parades down Main Street, eccentric characters, as well as statues and monuments were the source for the stories that he began to write 30 years later. See if you can match the people and places that Ted saw as a boy in Springfield with illustrations from his books.

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Seuss's Springfield
Springfield

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The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins
Dr. Seuss property TM & (c) 2015 Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. All Rights Reserved.
Howard Street Armory
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

Ted’s grandparents on his mother’s side of the family owned a bakery in Springfield’s South End. Right across the street was the Howard Street Armory, an amazing building that looked just like a medieval castle. Ted had a very close connection to his maternal grandparents and he often visited the family bakery as a young boy. The massive towers of the Armory may have impressed Ted since they bear a striking resemblance to the tower in Ted’s second children’s book, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

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If I Ran the Circus
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Ringling Brothers Circus Parade
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

In the years of Ted’s childhood, the arrival of the circus in town was a major event, marked by a huge parade down Main Street. Shown here is the parade marking the arrival in Springfield of the Ringling Brothers Circus in 1915, when Ted was 11 years old. Throughout his childhood, Ted was fascinated by exotic animals and the festive atmosphere of the circus. These childhood experiences surely played a significant role in creating his book, If I Ran the Circus.

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The Lorax
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Springfield Gas Company (Gasworks)
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

The massive gasworks on the banks of the Connecticut River is long gone, and most Springfield residents today have never heard of it. But young Ted was very aware of its existence. The building was quickly recognizable by its four large smoke stacks, and when it was in operation the belching smoke let off a foul odor. Many years later, when Dr. Seuss decided to write his book about pollution called The Lorax, his memory of the gasworks seems to have resurfaced from his childhood. Notice how the Thneeds’ polluting factory looks very similar to the gasworks of Ted’s youth.

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If I Ran the Zoo
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Ted’s father, Theodor Robert Geisel
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

In 1919, Ted’s grandfather, who had started a successful brewery in Springfield, passed away. Ted’s father was appointed President of the brewery. But in 1920, Prohibition laws were passed in the United States and made the sale of alcohol illegal. Ted’s father was forced to change careers and become the Superintendent of the Forest Park Zoo. Ted was already very familiar with the zoo, since the family home was just a short walking distance away. Ted’s familiarity with all the exotic animals he saw in Forest Park may have influenced the creation of the incredible animal characters in his books.

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The Sneetches and Other Stories
Dr. Seuss property TM & (c) 2015 Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. All Rights Reserved.
Knox-Martin tractor
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

As young Ted was growing up, Springfield was a major center of automobile, truck, and tractor manufacturing. Such companies as Stevens-Duryea, Knox, Atlas, and Rolls-Royce produced some of the finest cars of the early twentieth century. Some of these vehicles, like the Knox-Martin tractor shown here, were amazingly inventive designs in the earliest years of motor- powered vehicles. Ted would have been fascinated by these new vehicles and they may have inspired the truck of Sylvester McMonkey McBean from his book The Sneetches.

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And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
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Springfield police officers on Indian motorcycles
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

In the years that Ted was growing up in Springfield, The Indian Motocycle Company was quickly becoming the largest maker of motorcycles in the world. By 1913, when Ted was nine, the Company was making 32,000 cycles a year. He would have seen these cycles everywhere, and might have been particularly impressed with the police officers who used them to patrol city streets. In Dr. Seuss’ first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, the policemen in the parade are riding bright red cycles that look just like the Indians of that era.

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 If I Ran the Zoo
Dr. Seuss property TM & (c) 2015 Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. All Rights Reserved.
The Fuller Building
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

During the early twentieth century, at the time Ted was growing up in Springfield, Americans were fascinated by architecture and art from Asia. The Fuller building, still standing on Main Street, was once topped by a big onion dome inspired by Eastern architecture. That dome is now gone, and the building seems nothing more than a normal office building. But young Ted might have been fascinated by that exotic dome since it appears that he later used it as inspiration for one of his drawings in the book If I Ran The Zoo.

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Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories
Dr. Seuss property TM & (c) 2015 Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. All Rights Reserved.
Peacock at the Forest Park Zoo
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

Dr. Seuss loved unusual animals, and as he was growing up in Springfield, he had the opportunity to see many of them at the Forest Park Zoo just a short distance from his house. One of the birds that may have caught his eye was the peacock, a colorful and exotic bird from India and southern Asia. At that time, few Americans had actually seen a live peacock, so this rare creature would have made quite an impression on visitors like young Ted and might have inspired the character of Gertrude McFuzz.

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And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
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Horse-drawn carriage, Springfield Brewing Company
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

Many have wondered why Dr. Seuss used Mulberry Street as the subject of his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. The most popular theory is that he would have seen his grandfather’s brewery wagons traveling down Mulberry Street as they made their deliveries. The sight of these wagons, loaded with huge barrels and pulled by a team of powerful horses, would have made a big impression on young Ted, and may have been part of the reason that he used Mulberry Street as the focus for his first book.

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The Cat in the Hat
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74 Fairfield St.
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

Two years after Ted was born, the growing Geisel family moved into a three-story house at 74 Fairfield Street in the Forest Park neighborhood of Springfield. As a young boy, Ted played with toy soldiers on the front porch with his bulldog Rex in the yard. On the wall of his sister’s bedroom, young Ted drew a mural filled with his uniquely strange and humorous animals. Just a few blocks from the family home was Forest Park and the Forest Park Zoo, two of Ted’s favorite spots to explore and play.

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And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
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George Walter Vincent Smith
Photograph from the archives of the GWV Smith Art Museum

George Walter Vincent Smith and his wife Belle Townsley were art collectors who lived in Springfield in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1896, he opened a museum in Springfield to display his vast collection of American paintings, Far Eastern art and furniture, and even weapons and armor. During the time when Ted was growing up in Springfield, Smith often greeted visitors at the door and personally showed them around his museum. Young Ted probably saw Smith as exotic as his collection, like the old bearded man in And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

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The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins
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Barney Mausoleum, Forest Park
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

One of the most peculiar structures that one can see in Springfield’s Forest Park today is the Barney Mausoleum, where Everett Barney and his family are buried. Everett Barney made a fortune on his greatest invention, the clamp-on ice skate, and late in his life he gave his estate to the city in order to establish a park. His mausoleum became a strange but very beautiful site to visit within the park, and its curved stairway is mimicked in The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

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Horton Hears a Who!
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View of Forest Park
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

Forest Park is the largest green space in Springfield and a wonderful urban playground for the residents of the city. Ted lived within just a few blocks of the entrance to the park, and loved to visit the many trails, the zoo, and the wonderful streams and ponds running through the grounds. It is thought now that the winding pathways used by Dr. Seuss in books like Horton Hears A Who were most likely inspired by his explorations of Forest Park.

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Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories
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Fountain in Stearns Square
Photograph from the archives of the Wood Museum of Springfield History

When Ted was a boy, he visited downtown Springfield on regular shopping expeditions. Along the way, he would have passed the interesting sculptures in Stearns Square, including a fountain that had water spouting from the mouths of turtles arranged around a small pool. The fountain appears to have made an impression on Ted since he seems to have recreated them in his book Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories.

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