Louisiana Purchase in the Tampa Bay Times (15 February 1953)

John Chase was an American cartoonist and historian from New Orleans, best-known for his editorial cartoons for local newpapers and his works about New Orleans history. As a comic strip artist, he combined his two interests in a couple of syndicated comic strips about the history of the USA ('We The People', 1975-1976) and of Louisiana in particular ('Louisiana Purchase', 1953).

He was born as John Churchill Chase in New Orleans in 1905. He attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, after which he went to work at the Chicago Tribune as an early assistant to Frank King on his slice-of-life newspaper comic 'Gasoline Alley' in 1924. He also made other cartoons for the newspapers. By 1927 he returned to New Orleans, and went to work as an editorial cartoonist for local daily newspapers like the New Orleans Item, the Ville Platte Gazette, the Morning Tribune, the Sunday Item-Tribune and the New Orleans States. His cartoons with 'The Little Man' depicted the ordinary man while being beleagured by government and political quandaries. Another regularly featured character was 'Mr. New Orleans', who was typically dressed in a 19th-century long coat with a top hat, bushy moustache and glasses. Chase remained associated with the newspapers until 1964, after which he became the regular editorial TV cartoonist for the local TV station WDSU. Chase has drawn most of the politicians of his time. Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis once noted: "The only thing worse than being lampooned by Chase is to have him ignore you."


Louisiana Purchase in the Tampa Bay Times (16 August 1953)

In addition to his editorial cartooning, Chase made a newspaper strip about the acquisisition of the Louisiana territory by the United States from France in 1803. The feature, titled 'Louisiana Purchase', was syndicated by the Register and Tribune Syndicate from 5 January until 31 December 1953. Despite its strong educational undertone, the artist didn't shy away from caricaturally portraying well-known historical figures and adding both visual and textual humor. The series was collected in the book 'Louisiana Purchase: an American Story' (1954). An expanded and updated edition was published in 1982, which was reprinted in 2002 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the event.

Chase was furthermore a local authority on the history of New Orleans and its streets, who was frequently contacted by the city before a street name was changed. His historical knowledge about the origins of New Orleans' streetnames was chronicled in the book 'Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children and Other Streets of New Orleans', which was reprinted on several occasions between the 1960s and 1997. He also depicted the city's history in cartoons on a mural for the New Orleans Public Library. Later in life, Chase taught local history at Tulante University, as well as cartooning at the University of New Orleans. Chase's cartoons furthermore appeared on the football game programs at first mentioned university.

During the 1950s and 1960s, John Chase furthermore created a series of cartoons with the Texas Longhorns' mascot 'Bevo' for the University of Texas in Austin. In the mid 1970s he broadened his scope and depicted the entire U.S. history in the newspaper feature 'We The People', which was distributed by Continental Features between 30 June 1975 and 26 June 1976.

John Chase has served as president of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and was a founding member of the National Cartoonists Society. The artist passed away after a brief illness in Tulane Medical Center on 16 April 1986, after which a small street in the New Orleans Central Business District was named after him.

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