Seuss Bakery May Have Helped Dr. Seuss Develop his Signature Style
There is something new to see at 1350 Main Street—well, actually, there is something OLD to see. The Springfield Museums have relocated a turn-of-the-century horse-drawn bakery wagon to the popular downtown site to highlight the possible connection the George J. Seuss Bakery had to one of the many things that made Dr. Seuss’s books memorable—the rollicking rhythm of the words.
In the biography Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel, Judith and Neil Morgan write about how Nettie Seuss Geisel, young Ted’s mom, used to sing her children to sleep with “The Pie Song.” Ted later said that his mother was responsible “for the rhythms in which I write and the urgency with which I do it.” (The new biography Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay Jones (2019) also includes this anecdote.)
“The Pie Song” goes like this: “Apple, mince, lemon—peach, apricot, pineapple—blueberry, coconut, custard and SQUASH!” Nettie would have learned this rhythmic ditty while working side-by-side with her mother and father in the George J. Seuss Bakery at Main and Howard streets—across from the Howard Street Armory—in the late 1800s.
Possibly thanks to Nettie’s pie song, Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, wrote his stories with a similar cadence. The anapest meter—two short syllables followed by a long one—has a rollicking movement that helps us all remember the lines. For instance “I know it is wet, and the sun is not sunny. But we can have lots of good fun that is funny!” All of this thanks to a song that made the work a little easier in the Seuss Bakery that Dr. Seuss knew as a child.
Traditional German bakers, Margaretha and George Seuss probably offered Brötchen (bread rolls), Vollkornbrot (whole grain bread), and Streuselkuchen (streusel cake) in addition to pies and pastries. One advertisement for the George J. Seuss Bakery reminded patrons that Sundays featured brown bread and beans! The Seuss family likely used horse-drawn delivery wagons to bring fresh baked goods to households that no longer baked their own bread.
Wooden delivery wagons were pervasive in American cities like Springfield in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As late as 1926, horse-drawn bakery wagons accounted for approximately 70 percent of home deliveries. The wagon on display is from the Pytka Bakery in Three Rivers, MA, and it was on the road until the 1950s before it was carefully stored in the family barn. Dr. Seuss was born in 1904 at a time when wooden delivery wagons were a common sight in his hometown.
“In fact, one of the humorous illustrations on the opening pages of his first children’s book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street is of a horse-drawn delivery wagon!” said Kay Simpson, President and CEO of the Springfield Museums.
“Exhibiting the bakery wagon helps to underscore the connections between Ted’s childhood in Springfield and his creative output as a world-famous author and illustrator of children’s books,” said Susan Brandt, President of Dr. Seuss Enterprises and co-creator of the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum.
The installation of the bread wagon downtown, and its repainting as the Seuss Bakery wagon, highlights a time of transition for Springfield residents—as lives became more busy and work migrated out of the home families bought bread instead of making it themselves. This wagon also helps us learn more about Dr. Seuss and the influence his family and his hometown may have had on his writing.
The artist for the newly painted bakery wagon is John Simpson who is the artistic director for The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum. He was assisted by artist Susan Mosijchuk.