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In Part One, I covered John Churchill Chase’s origins as a political and football cartoonist. In Part Two, I will introduce you to his professional football art and cover the rest of his history in New Orleans.
Based on the popularity of his Tulane football programs, John Churchill Chase was contracted to illustrate the covers of college programs at Rice and Texas.
This presence in Texas football led to him being approached by both the Dallas Texans and the Houston Oilers to provide art work for their gameday programs. It also helped that they played each other three times that year, cementing Chase’s work into the fabric of Texas professional football.
Between 1960-62, he provided artwork for both teams during their regular seasons, and was occasionally contracted to provide art work for their road games, when those home teams wanted a collectible copy of the gameday program, because the style of the times wasn’t reflective of the image the AFL was trying to give off.
Chase’s programs were intended to promote fans enjoying themselves at the game, rooting for the home team. To Chase, there was nothing wrong with good old-fashioned mockery; like in his editorial position – it was okay to make fun, but not be mean. His work reflected that ethos.
In 1963, when the Texans relocated north and became the Kansas City Chiefs, so valued was Chase’s work as part of the team’s identity that he was contracted to provide the Chiefs the same service that he had the Texans.
Please overlook the casual racism of the times.
He relished his role as a local historian. For the 150th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase in 1953, Chase created a series of cartoons about the enterprise of the American government buying the land from France. These ran first in local papers, but were eventually picked up by the AP and ran across the country. Eventually, these cartoons became a book, “America’s Best Buy: Louisiana Purchase,” that told the tale of the massive real estate transaction in comic-book format.
Over the course of his career, Chase was commissioned to write several cartoon histories of New Orleans businesses. This one, from 1945, tells the story of the Standard Coffee Company.
As a local historian, Chase preferred to tell their stories in relation to the larger history of the city itself. He felt an obligation to support businesses that helped support the city, and tried to tell their story as their part of the whole development of New Orleans.
He also did the same for the city government. Under contract, Chase drew this history of New Orleans’ efforts to provide pure drinking water and adequate drainage for the water district’s pamphlet, ‘The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans: How It Began, the Problems It Faces, the Way It Works, the Job It Does in 1959.’
And his economic conservatism never got in the way of his sense of history. In 1977, he drew the cartoon, “In 1892, we were here … when a New Orleanian tried to prove that justice is color blind”, to accompany an article explaining the historical significance of the Plessy v Ferguson case and its impact on southern segregation.
Long story short for Canadians: Plessy v Ferguson established “separate but equal” in provision of services in the USA, primarily the South. Homer Plessy attempted to sit in a whites-only train car in New Orleans in 1892, violating the 1890 Louisiana Separate Car Act, which established separate travelling cars for white & black passengers. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of the state 8-1, and Plessy was forced to pay a fine of $25. The New Orleans Item had reported on the case at the time, and the Item-Tribune was publishing historical retrospectives on stories it had covered in its 100 years of existence.
A lifelong Catholic, he was asked at various times for donations of his creativity to various projects.
He created the image of the Archbishop Rummel Raiders school mascot, Rufus.
More importantly, he was asked to create something for the main window at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church.
Called “The Transfiguration”, it pictures Jesus between the prophets Moses & Elijah. He was quite proud of this work, as the church had assumed they would be getting a cartoon drawing, and he was surprised they were considering him for a work of stained glass, as he assumed they simply wanted an illustration for the entrance.
[For my fellow heathens, the Transfiguration of Jesus is an event reported in the New Testament when Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant in glory upon a mountain. In these accounts, Jesus and three of his apostles, Peter, James, John, go to a mountain (the Mount of Transfiguration) to pray. On the mountain, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. Then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to him and he speaks with them. Jesus is then called “Son” by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God the Father, as in the Baptism of Jesus. The Transfiguration is one of the five major milestones in the gospel narrative of the life of Jesus, the others being Baptism, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension.]
Additionally, Chase gave back to the community by teaching classes at both Tulane and the University of New Orleans. At Tulane, he and fellow newspaper columnist & historian Charles “Pie” Dufour taught a class on New Orleans history from 1953 to 1978, while at UNO he taught an art class in cartooning.
He also created a large mural for the central branch of the New Orleans Public Library.
In his professional career, Chase remained active in cartooning. In 1964, he left the world of print journalism and went to TV station WDSU to become their editorial cartoonist and illustrator. His cartoons would appear in the evening broadcasts.
[Fun fact: in the 1950s, WDSU-TV became the springboard for the career of Dick Van Dyke, first as a single comedian and later as the emcee of a locally produced comedy program on the station; among his duties, Van Dyke had also served as a staff announcer, hosted music programs and appeared in a segment during the station’s noon newscast.]
Chase married his wife Frances in 1934. They had three children – Cathryn, Frances & John Jr.
Chase retired from the media in 1975. He died in 1986. He was buried next to his beloved wife, who predeceased him by two years.
In tribute, 1991 a portion of Calliope Street in downtown New Orleans was renamed in his honour, which even has a trolley stop to signify his name.
John Churchill Chase – a fun rabbit hole of history to fall down.
References: (for both parts)
- Political cartoons / history:
- Football posters:
- Sugar Bowl:
- Sugar Bowl:
- Google Books:
- Other stuff: