Seuss the oilman? Thirty years before the Grinch stole Christmas in 1957, Theodore Seuss Geisel’s critters were seen in Standard Oil advertising campaigns.

seuss the oilman

Few know that Theodore Seuss Geisel created advertising campaigns for Standard Oil for many years. This Standard Oil Company “Essolube” oil change card was issued between 1930 and 1940.

During the Great Depression, the strange but wonderful creatures of the future Dr. Seuss helped sell Essolube and other products for Standard Oil of New Jersey. He later said his experience at Standard, “taught me conciseness and how to marry pictures with words.”

seuss the oilman

Ted Geisel’s unique critters populated Standard Oil advertisements for “Flit,” once a popular bug spray.

In the cartoon that launched his career, Theodore Seuss Geisel drew a peculiar dragon inside a castle.

In the January 14, 1928, issue of New York City’s Judge magazine, Geisel introduced America to one of the many characters inhabiting his imaginative menagerie.

seuss the oilman

Dr. Seuss later said his experience working at Standard Oil “taught me conciseness and how to marry pictures with words.”

“Flit,” was a popular bug spray of the day – especially against flies and mosquitoes. It was one of many Standard Oil Company of New Jersey consumer products derived from petroleum.

Late in 1927, Standard Oil’s growing advertising department, which had focused on sales of Standard and Esso gasolines, lubricating oil, fuel oil and asphalt, reorganized to promote other products, according to author Alfred Chandler Jr.

“Specialities, such as Nujol, Flit, Mistol, and other petroleum by-products that could not be effectively sold through the department’s sales organization were combined in a separate subsidiary – Stanco,” noted Chandler in his 1962 book, Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the American Industrial Enterprise.

“Quick, Henry, the Flit!”

Geisel’s fortuitous bug-spray cartoon depicted a medieval knight in his bed, facing a dragon who had invaded his room, and lamenting, “Darn it all, another dragon. And just after I’d sprayed the whole castle with Flit.”

According to the curators of the Dr. Seuss Collection at the University of California, San Diego, an anecdote in Judith and Neil Morgan’s 1995 book Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel, the wife of the ad executive who handled the Standard Oil account saw the dragon cartoon. Read the rest of this entry »