Dr. Seuss First Hit It Big With His ‘Book of Boners’

Oh, the places he went
Dr. Seuss First Hit It Big With His ‘Book of Boners’

Long before Horton heard a Who or a Grinch pilfered Christmas, Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, found himself with a literary hit on his hands. After making a few bucks illustrating bug-spray ads and submitting cartoons to magazines, the man who already went by Dr. Seuss made the big time by providing the silly pictures for a publication called The Pocket Book of Boners

The book wasn’t quite as lascivious as its title might suggest to 21st-century readers. While there were indeed boners in Seuss’ proverbial pocket, the word referred to its earlier meaning of “blunders.” Specifically, the book was a collection of dumb mistakes turned in by school-age students — the 1931 version of a moderately amusing BuzzFeed listThe book’s Wikipedia entry includes a few examples of the boners in question:

  • “King James I wrote the Bible.”
  • “A man who marries twice commits bigotry.”
  • “A virgin forest is a forest in which the hand of man has never set foot.”

Hilarious! While the book was chaste, it did contain what is likely one of Seuss’ only published nudes. Granted, it’s only Benjamin Franklin, but thanks to one eBay seller for sharing this cartoon in their offer to sell.

Speaking of eBay sellers, it’s still possible to get your hands on the nearly century-old Pocket Book of Boners. Prices range from $42.50 (this tattered version is held together with duct tape) to $399 — with free shipping! 

It would have cost you a lot less back in the day, and plenty of people paid for their own Boners. The paperback was one of the biggest sellers of the World War II era, with 1.34 million copies in print. Dr. Seuss was a big part of its commercial appeal, with New York Times review singling out his illustrated boners as “hilarious.”

The book’s success led to more compilations into the 1950s, although only the first two were illustrated by Dr. Seuss. By the time 1952 saw the publication of Bigger and Better Boners, weary readers decided they’d had enough and banished it to the spare bedroom. 


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