Did you know that in addition to being a beloved author of children’s books, Dr. Seuss wrote more than 400 political cartoons during World War II?
Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, gifted the world with stories like “The Cat in the Hat,” “The Lorax,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” and dozens of other childhood classics until his death in 1991.
In recent years, however, it’s some of his lesser known works from the 1940s that have gained attention.
In the years leading up to World War II, Seuss began penning cartoons for PM, a liberal publication, frequently pushing back against the “America First” mentality of U.S. isolationists opposed to U.S. involvement in the war.
So when candidate Donald Trump adopted “Make America Great Again” as his campaign slogan, echoing cries of “America First” — the rallying call for an anti-Semitic and Nazi-appeasing segment of the wartime U.S. population — some of Seuss’ cartoons began to find new relevance more than 70 years after first being published.
Like this one, which depicts a mother reading a book titled “Adolf the Wolf” to children while wearing an “America First” shirt, explaining that because the wolf’s victims were foreign children, it didn’t really matter that the wolf ate them — a clear parallel to the conflicting approaches to our modern refugee crisis.
Suess’s other comics took aim at overarching issues like anti-Semitism, racial inequality, and political obstructionism — all issues still relevant today.
To be sure, the comics were far from perfect and reflected some ugly stereotypes of their own. For instance, many of his cartoons amplified some pretty awful stereotypes of Japanese citizens and Japanese-Americans. And while it’s easy to chalk that up as being simply an element of the time, that type of anti-Japanese sentiment helped fuel the racism and paranoia that eventually led to Japanese internment.
If the world of Dr. Seuss can teach us anything, it’s that history is our best defense against modern tyranny.
See more of Seuss’ wartime comics at the University of California San Diego Library’s website.