A Tale of Two Cartoonists
By Hugh Turley
The real name of Dr. Seuss, the
children’s author, was Theodor Seuss Geisel.
At Dartmouth, he was editor of the humor magazine Jack-O-Lantern.
When Geisel was banned from extra-curricular activities for violating
school rules he adopted the pseudonym “Seuss” to continue at the magazine,
defying the administration.
Upon graduating, Geisel told his
father he had been awarded a fellowship to Oxford. His proud father had the news published in the hometown
newspaper, only to discover later there was no scholarship.
The embarrassed father paid his son’s way to Oxford, believing he would
earn a doctorate in literature. Geisel
soon returned without earning a degree and simply added the title “Dr.” to
his pen name.
Geisel enjoyed some success as an
advertising artist. He tried a
comic strip in 1935, but it soon folded.
Well before Pearl Harbor, Geisel
drew propaganda cartoons advocating U.S. entry into World War II.
He targeted, especially, prominent anti-war Americans like Charles
His cartoons deplored Nazi racism against Jews. They also touted equality for black Americans; that helped the war effort. Japanese Americans, on the other hand, he depicted savagely as traitors and saboteurs. Many of his comics point to this.
A strong supporter of President
Roosevelt, Geisel routinely attacked FDR’s critics as well as critics of our
war allies Joseph Stalin and the Communists.
Geisel’s career skyrocketed in
the 1950s. His most famous book, The
Cat in the Hat, was published in 1957.
His credits include two Academy awards, two Emmy awards, a Peabody award,
and a Pulitzer Prize.
Percy Crosby was born 13 years
before Geisel. He had quit high
school to help support his family. Crosby
was the talented creator of the comic strip Skippy that ran from 1923 to
1945. The popular Skippy character
was syndicated through King Features, appeared in advertising, and was adapted
as a movie by Paramount.
The licensing of the Skippy
name, with Skippy toys, games,
candy, ice cream, and clothing, was worth a fortune. During the Great Depression
Percy Crosby was a rare millionaire.
More than a successful
cartoonist, Crosby was a fearless champion for justice.
He used his pen and his own money to take on the Ku Klux Klan, Al Capone,
and corrupt politicians. Crosby was
also a fierce critic of President Franklin Roosevelt.
Crosby’s daughter, Joan
Tibbetts (Skippy.com), says her father “was treading on big toes.”
A California peanut butter company took the Skippy
name without Crosby’s permission. This
led to costly litigation. More
trouble came with IRS claims of tax evasion.
His comic strip ended in 1945.
Eventually Crosby was committed
to a psychiatric ward where he remained for sixteen years until his death.
“Skippy” is now
better known as peanut butter sold by Best Foods.
Skippy comic reprinted with permission of Joan Crosby Tibbetts.
(Note the fence with Skippy’s paint can in this label from the 1940’s)
This article appeared in the April 2009 Hyattsville Life and Times of Hyattsville, Maryland.
See also "Roosevelt's Revenge."
David Martin, April 10, 2009