Theodore Seuss Geisel devoted his early career to creating advertising campaigns for Standard Oil – where for more than 15 years he developed the skills that would redefine children’s literature. This Standard Oil Company “Essolube” oil charge card was issued between 1930 and 1940.
The Dr. Seuss Collection of the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego notes that the future Dr. Seuss, “hawked such diverse goods as ball bearings, radio promotional spots, beer, and sugar.” The library preserves examples of his Standard Oil artwork, including this 1932 gasoline advertisement.
Ted Geisel’s unique critters populated Standard Oil advertisements for “Flit,” once a popular bug spray.
About 30 years before the Grinch stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss’ strange but wonderful critters worked for Standard Oil of New Jersey.
In the January 14, 1928, issue of New York City’s Judge magazine, Theodore Seuss Geisel first introduced America to one of the many characters inhabiting his imaginative menagerie.
Dr. Seuss later said his experience working at Standard Oil “taught me conciseness and how to marry pictures with words.”
In the cartoon that launched his career, Geisel drew a peculiar dragon inside a castle. “Flit,” was a popular bug spray of the day – especially against flies and mosquitoes. It was one of Standard Oil Company’s many 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 »