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Chester Gould

creator of Dick Tracy

Chester Gould

Chester Gould was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma, on November 20, 1900. He discovered the comic strips section of the local newspaper at the age of seven, and soon after began copying the cartoons and adding his own captions and dialogue. At age eight his father prompted him to sketch some of the local politicians at the Pawnee Courthouse who were meeting for the Democratic County Convention. His father taped some of the sketches on the courthouse windows, and one of the politicians bought the one of himself. He won a nationwide cartoon contest at age fourteen, and another three years later.

In 1918, Gould entered Oklahoma A&M College, where he enrolled as a freshman majoring in Commerce and Marketing. While there, he did most of the cartoon artwork in the 1918 and 1919 A&M Year Books. He also drew eighteen political cartoons for The Tulsa Democrat, as well as a sports cartoon for The Daily Oklahoman Newspaper.

In 1921, Gould moved to Chicago, where he studied at Northwestern University's School of Commerce and then the Chicago Art Institute, while also trying to find work as a full-time newspaper cartoonist. In 1922 the Chicago Tribune hired him to draw advertising art, but Gould wanted to do comic strips. He got his wish after graduating from Northwestern in 1923, signing a 5-year contract with the Evening American to draw "The Radio Catts," a hilarious strip about radio, and "Fillum Fables," an adventure strip. He also reviewed top billings at Chicago theaters and drew caricatures of leading stars such as Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, and Sophie Tucker. What he really wanted, however, was to have the Chicago Tribune buy one of his original comic strip ideas, something that was still a few years away. In 1928, Gould left the Evening American and went to the Daily News, where he reverted back to advertising art, editorial cartoons, and did a strip called "The Girl Friends."

It was in 1931 that Gould finally came up with a comic strip idea that the Chicago Tribune liked. After seeing headlines and stories about gangsters and their escapades, he decided to create a character that fought crime. The editor of the Tribune loved "Plainclothes Tracy," but suggested that the strip needed a shorter name. “Dick Tracy” first appeared in the Detroit Mirror, a Tribune-owned paper, on October 4, 1931, and quickly took the country by storm. One of the first strips to show the effects of violence on people, "Dick Tracy" eventually became a regular fixture of comics pages across the United States, as well as 27 foreign newspapers.

Gould retired on December 25, 1977, at which time one of his long-time assistants became the artist behind "Dick Tracy," which still runs in many newspapers today.

Chester Gould died in Woodstock, Illinois, on May 11, 1985.

The Chester Gould Dick Tracy Museum
Comic Vine

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This page was last updated on 11/20/2017.