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Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel’s Rhode Island connection

March 2, 2012

Theodore Geisel, born on this day in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts, is best known as the father of Dr. Seuss. But the author and illustrator also brought to life Chief Gansett, an iconic representation of Narragansett Beer, for the brewer.

Narragansett detailed the backstory in 2009:

[O]ne of the most interesting facts that we found was both his father, Theodor Robert Geisel, and grandfather Geisel were brewers. In fact his German immigrant grandfather owned the Kalmbach and Geisel Brewery, or Come Back and Guzzle by the locals, in Springfield. In 1894 it was renamed the Highland Brewery and five years later it became part of the Springfield Breweries. But in 1919 on the day Theodor Robert became president, prohibition forced the brewery to close forever. His father got a job as the city’s Parks Superintendent, but Theodor Seuss must have never forgotten how prohibition forced his family business to close. While attending Dartmouth College during prohibition he was arrested for throwing a drinking party and kicked off the Jack-O-Lantern, Dartmouth’s humor magazine. He continued to secretly submit works signed “Seuss.” This is the first record of Theodor Geisel using the “Suess” pseudonym which is both his middle and mother’s maiden name. During WWII he created anti-prohibition political cartoons and developed the Chief Gansett ads like the Holiday one below.

Although he never got his chance to brew in the family business, it’s clear he stayed true to the roots of his German heritage and tied it in with his New England heritage for Narragansett Brewing. His Chief Gansett illustrations were iconic during Rudolf Haffenreffer Jr.’s reign as president of Narragansett. And the Seuss tray and coasters have become hot breweriana items for collectors everywhere. ‘Tis the season for ‘Gansett and Dr. Seuss classics, they are both “TOO GOOD TO MISS!”

Another great Chief Gansett ad

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