Chester Gould had mixed feelings about the new medium of television when it became commercially viable following World War Two. His primary concern was its effect on newspaper—specifically, comic strip—readership. The cartoonist questioned whether television could effectively supplant the important role that the newspaper played in our American society. In practice, similarly as he had with motion pictures, the cartoonist purposefully avoided the new technology to protect the creative purity of his imagination crafting Dick Tracy’s adventures.
To Gould’s sensibilities, the press and, specifically, print journalism were to be at all times independent of the government. Referred to as “the Fourth Estate,” he believed a vibrant press served society as an important check on state power; apart from editorializing, its’ principal role was to offer independent perspectives that differed with establishment views. Throughout his career, he witnessed the government’s creeping influence over the print media and was keenly aware of television’s susceptibility to such perfidy. By the fifties, Chet became increasingly concerned over the influence television gained as a form of popular entertainment and, more specifically, how it was gradually diminishing the effectiveness of the serial newspaper comic strip as a successful storytelling form.
As the cartoonist was not a regular consumer of television throughout his lifetime it’s somewhat ironic that he made his debut appearance so early in its development. The Police Athletic League of Philadelphia awarded Gould their top honor—“PAL of the Year”—in October, 1949.
The cartoonist traveled to New York City at the invitation of his old friend, Fred Waring, to receive the award on the bandleader’s popular program, The Fred Waring Show, airing on CBS affiliates. Popularly known as “The Man Who Taught America How to Sing,” Waring was a life-long fan of the comic strip and Dick Tracy was among his favorites.
Each April, Chet and Edna would travel to New York City by train—the legendary 20 th Century Limited— to attend the annual American Newspaper Publishers Association convention and during these trips the cartoonist would get the opportunity to catch up with his colleagues, promote the strip to newspaper editors and occasionally make appearances on popular radio and, later, television programs. The cartoonist, likewise, took time out of his rigorous schedule to appear with Chicago television personalities as a means of promoting the strip’s local readership in the Chicago Tribune.
From nationally-renowned to local programs this gallery features a growing collection of digital examples of Chester Gould’s appearances on television over the second half of the Twentieth Century. These examples are copy-written by their respective owners and are made available expressly as a resource for research purposes.
Featured Exhibits in this Gallery
This exhibit features video archives of Chester Gould’s appearances on Toast of the Town, Ed Sullivan’s popular variety show. Chet traveled to New York City in September, 1950 to make his first appearance on the program, joining Victor Borge, Frankie Laine and Smith & Dale on the finale of the show’s third season. His second and future appearances would coincide with his annual attendance of the American Newspaper Publishers Association convention each April.