Live Mutual: A Dr. Seuss connection

By Allen Wastler
Allen Wastler is a former financial journalist with over 30-years of experience, including time at CNBC, CNN, and Knight-Ridder Newspapers.
Posted on Mar 1, 2018

You might not think a large, mutual insurer would have a connection to a beloved children’s author — but MassMutual does.

MassMutual is headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts, in a formidable Georgian-style building erected in 1927.

There was another structure there before that edifice was built. It was a brewery. And that brewery was established in 1879 by Theodor Geisel, an immigrant from Germany … and the grandfather of Dr. Seuss.

Geisel was originally a jeweler who came to America in 1867 and started a shop in downtown Springfield. Yet an opportunity arose in 1876 to become a partner in a small brewery, and Geisel seized it.

The new venture was dubbed The Kalmbach and Geisel Brewery — affectionately called “Come Back and Guzzle” by locals — and a new facility was built on what was then the outskirts of town. In 1899, Geisel combined the brewery with three others, creating the Springfield Brewery, the second largest in New England. After Geisel’s death in 1919 his son, Theodor Robert (Dr. Seuss’s father), became the brewery’s president.

But shortly after that the brewery had to shut down due to Prohibition.

Ironically, one of Dr. Seuss’s first jobs would be as an illustrator for Narragansett Brewing Co. Of course, he would go on to write and illustrate 44 children’s books and become one of the most celebrated children’s authors of all time.

MassMutual’s connection to Dr. Seuss is admittedly coincidental. And it’s due to the fact that both the company and the man grew up in Springfield.

Indeed, Seuss tales like “And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo” reference town landmarks (Dr. Seuss’ father became the superintendent of the local zoo after losing his brewery job). And the town has a museum dedicated to the author and his work.

MassMutual was established in Springfield in 1851, with an office, and later a building, in the downtown area. As it grew, MassMutual eventually bought the brewery site for construction of a new headquarters.

Yet beyond coincidence is a shared set of values: a belief that people are better off when they work together and look out for one another. At MassMutual, we express that through our Live Mutual philosophy. Dr. Seuss expressed it through his pictures and rhymes, from Whoville to the Lorax to the Cat in the Hat.

And so, however circumstantial, we’re mindful of our connection to Dr. Seuss and his message. And we’re proud of it.

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