RCA Victor Youth Series.
Told by Paul Wing.
With music and sound effects.
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins is a children’s book, written by Dr. Seuss and published by Vanguard in 1938. Unlike the majority of Dr. Seuss’s books, it is written in prose rather than rhyming and metered verse. Geisel, who collected hats, got the idea for the story on a commuter train from New York to New England while he was sitting behind a businessman wearing a hat.
Set in feudal times, the story begins in the Kingdom of Didd, when King Derwin is riding through a street past Bartholomew Cubbins, a poor boy in the market. Bartholomew removes his hat, according to the laws, but another hat mysteriously appears; when he attempts to remove this one too, another one appears again, and this continues, even as he removes more and more hats, each growing in extravagance and beauty from the 451st hat onwards.
Eventually, as Bartholomew is being threatened with death, the 500th hat, studded with massive gems and gilding, comes off and Bartholomew’s head is bare again. Stunned by the beauty of the hat, King Derwin grants him reprieve and trades him 500 gold coins for the 500th hat.
Not long after publication, the story was adapted for an album issued by RCA Victor (Y-339). Narrated by Paul Wing, the audio adaptation had a running time of 13 minutes and 37 seconds. The dramatization featured music and sound effects on two 10″ 78rpm records in a bi-fold sleeve. This recording was played in elementary school classrooms during the early 1940s.
Minnesota’s Children’s Theatre Company, the only youth theatre company to ever win the coveted regional Tony Award, is the only theater company in the world with the rights to produce The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins on stage. The company has produced it nearly a dozen times since Theodore Geisel and his estate provided Children’s Theatre with the rights. The company has toured the play across the USA, in China, Russia and Japan. The last time the company produced the play was to sold-out houses in 2010 at their Minneapolis home.