29 Jan Yes, Even You, Dr. Seuss
Oh, the places you’ll go. You can’t drink it in a bar, you can’t drink it in your car. You can’t drink it in a boat, you can’t drink it with a goat. The late, great Dr. Seuss should have written a book about all the places that he was banned from drinking when he was not yet Dr. Seuss, but instead, a young college kid named Theodore Seuss Geisel.
Ironically, for all that Prohibition took away from the country for thirteen years, one of its lasting legacies was the birth of Dr. Seuss. Who knew?
While Prohibition remained the law, Theodore Seuss Geisel was a young student at Dartmouth where he fostered his passion for writing humorous columns for the school’s magazine, the “Jack-O-Lantern”. While at Dartmouth, Geisel and friends were caught tipping back bottles of gin in the dorms. His punishment was quite severe in that he was suspended from all Dartmouth extra-curriculars, including the “Jack-O-Lantern.” Fortunately, Geisel hadn’t shared his soon-to-be-famous middle name with the editors of the magazine, and simply began writing as Dr. Seuss. Geisel, or Seuss, as we know him now, was actually very lucky. The punishment for drinking at Dartmouth in 1923 was expulsion.
Like the rest of the country, though, the threat of expulsion only drew more liquor and more bootleggers onto the campus. The New Hampshire campus location was in close enough proximity to Canada that enterprising students simply crossed the border to drink. Then President of Dartmouth, Ernest Martin Hopkins, received complaints that there was more drinking than ever on campus during Prohibition, and rumors had spread that it was being called, “the Cuba of the north.” Flustered by his inability to enforce the Volstead Act, Hopkins even sent a letter to a friend and fellow alum of Dartmouth complaining that he’d like to have “a he-man with automatic revolvers and backbone” check out the cars that were coming in and out with liquor.
Here’s what really happens when you try to make a college dry. Kids will kill for it. In 1920, one Dartmouth student killed another over nothing more than a bottle of whiskey. Or creative genius is stifled. They tried to fucking silence our Seuss!
Interestingly, Hopkins’s opinion about Prohibition seemed to wane with the public sentiment. At the outset he may have wished for automatic revolvers and men with backbones, but it seems that he softened a bit as he saw Dartmouth students being killed, expelled, or suspended for nothing more than normal college-student behavior. Towards the end of Prohibition, he suggested making beer readily available on campus to drive out the evils of hard liquor—no one would kill someone for a beer, right? He was even courted by anti-Prohibition advocates, but never took the bait.
To celebrate Seuss and the end of Prohibition in this ‘20s, how about reading Green Eggs and Ham, while drinking gin…maybe even replacing “green eggs” for the word “gin” and “ham” for the word “whiskey”. Now that’s a bed time story for the kiddies!
Written by Amy Williams