Grandparents

Dr. Seuss’s grandparents
Geisel grandparents (pictured on left) and Seuss grandparents (pictured on right).
Photos from the collection of Peggy and Ted Owens.

When Ted was born in 1904, the German-American community in Springfield numbered around 1,000 people. Theodor Geisel, Ted’s grandfather, was one of the most respected and prosperous members of this small community. He was born in Muhlhausen, Germany in 1840, and at the age of 14 he became a jeweler’s apprentice in Pforzheim. Later, he served in the German cavalry during the war with Austria.

In 1867 he left Germany for America and immediately began work as a jeweler in Springfield, developing a reputation for brooches and pendants. Four years later, in 1871, he married Christine Schmaelzle, who had migrated to America from the German state of Wurttemberg.

Springfield Brewing Company buildingThe Springfield Brewing Company, owned by Ted’s paternal grandfather, one of the largest breweries in New England.

Although a jeweler by trade, Geisel was a very enterprising man. When an opportunity arose to buy a small brewery in 1876, he jumped at the chance and quickly formed a partnership with Christian Kalmbach. They established the Kalmbach and Geisel brewery on Boston Road in Springfield, which was soon dubbed by patrons as “Come Back and Guzzle.” In 1899, the brewery merged with three other local beer makers to form the Springfield Brewing Company, one of the largest breweries in New England.

Ted remembered his paternal grandfather as kind and magnificent. He bought $1,000 worth of war bonds from young Ted as part of a Boy Scout effort during World War I. This demonstrated the family’s loyalty to America while ensuring that Ted was among the top ten Springfield Scouts in bond sales.

The Springfield TurnvereinGeorge Seuss was respected in the community as the founding president of the Springfield Turnverein.

Ted’s maternal grandparents were also members of the German-American community in Springfield. The Bavarian immigrants George J. Seuss and his wife Margaretha ran a bakery in the South End of Springfield on Howard Street. George was respected in the community as the founding president of the Springfield Turnverein, a social and gymnastics club that was a social center for the German community in the city.

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