Chester Gould

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Chester Gould
Born(1900-11-20)November 20, 1900
Pawnee, Oklahoma, United States
DiedMay 11, 1985(1985-05-11) (aged 84)
Woodstock, Illinois, United States
OccupationCartoonist, writer
Spouse(s)Edna M. Gauger

Chester Gould (/ɡld/; November 20, 1900 – May 11, 1985)[1][2] was an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of the Dick Tracy comic strip, which he wrote and drew from 1931 to 1977, incorporating numerous colorful and monstrous villains.

Early life[edit]

Chester Gould was born to Gilbert R. Gould, the son of a minister, and Alice Maud (née Miller).[3][4] All four of his grandparents were pioneer settlers of Oklahoma, he was a Christian,[5] but he was born Jewish.[6][7][8][9][10][11] Fascinated by the comics since childhood, Gould quickly found work as a cartoonist, he was hired by William Randolph Hearst's Chicago Evening American, where he produced his first comic strips, Fillum Fables (1924) and The Radio Catts. He also drew a topical strip about Chicago, Why It's a Windy City. Gould married Edna Gauger (1901–1994) in 1926, and their daughter, Jean, was born in 1927. A 1923 graduate, Gould is an alumnus of Northwestern University where he attended the School of Professional Studies.[12]

Proposed comic strip drawn by Chester Gould one year before creating Dick Tracy. See this strip at full resolution at Three Men in a Tub.

His cousin Henry W. Gould is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at West Virginia University.

Dick Tracy[edit]

In 1931, Gould was hired as a cartoonist with the Chicago Tribune and introduced Dick Tracy in the Detroit Mirror on Sunday, October 4, 1931;[13] the original comic was based on a New York detective Gould was interested in. The comic then branched to the fictional character that became famous, he drew the comic strip for the next 46 years from his home in Woodstock, Illinois.

In order to keep informed of police methods, Gould took courses in forensics and investigative procedures, he was later proud of having introduced in 1946, the two-way wrist radio for Tracy, and in 1947, the closed-circuit television, both of which were later invented, though in somewhat different forms.

Gould's stories were rarely pre-planned, since he preferred to improvise stories as he drew them. While fans praised this approach as producing exciting stories, it sometimes created awkward plot developments that were difficult to resolve. In one notorious case, Gould had Tracy in an inescapable deathtrap with a caisson; when Gould depicted Tracy addressing Gould personally and having the cartoonist magically extract him, publisher Joseph Patterson vetoed the sequence and ordered it redrawn. The strip also drew protests from those who felt that Mr. Gould's depiction of crime was too gruesome, that he poured on too much gore and carnage.[14]

Later in the strip's Gould period, the Tracy strip was widely criticized for being too right-wing in character and as excessively supportive of the police. Critics thought Gould ignored the rights of the accused and failed to support his agenda with an adequate story-line; the late 1950s also saw a newspaper readership growing less indulgent of Gould's politics.

Dick Tracy mural in downtown Pawnee, Oklahoma

For instance, Gould introduced an malodorous, tobacco-spitting character, B.O. Plenty, with little significant complaint from readers in the 1940s. However, the 1960s introduction of crooked lawyer Flyface and his relatives, surrounded by swarming flies, created a negative reader reaction strong enough for papers to drop the strip in large numbers. There was then a dramatic change in the strip's setting, leaving behind the strip's origins as an urban crime drama for science fiction plot elements and regular visits to the moon. An increasingly fantastic procession of enemies and stories ensued; the Apollo 11 moon landing prompted Gould to abandon this phase. Finally, Dick Tracy was beset by the overall trend in newspaper comics away from strips with continuing storylines and toward those whose stories are largely resolved within one series of panels.

Gould, his characters, and improbable plots were satirized in Al Capp's comic strip Li'l Abner with the Fearless Fosdick sequences (supposedly drawn by "Lester Gooch"); a notable villain was Bomb Face, a gangster whose head was a bomb.

Awards and exhibitions[edit]

Chester Gould won the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award in 1959 and 1977; the Mystery Writers of America honored Gould and his work with a Special Edgar Award in 1980. In 1995, the strip was one of 20 included in the Comic Strip Classics series of commemorative postage stamps and postcards.[15]

Dick Tracy: The Art of Chester Gould was an exhibition in Port Chester, New York, at the Museum of Cartoon Art from October 4 through November 30, 1978; the exhibition was curated by Bill Crouch, Jr.

From 1991 until 2008, the art and artifacts of Gould's career were displayed in the Chester Gould-Dick Tracy Museum that operated from the Woodstock, Illinois, Old Courthouse on the Square. Visitors to the Museum saw original comic strips, correspondence, photographs, and much memorabilia, including Gould's drawing board and chair. In 2000, the Museum received a Superior Achievement Award from the Illinois Association of Museums, and in 2001, it was given an Award of Excellence from the Illinois State Historical Society; the museum continues today as a virtual museum online.[16]

Gould retired December 25, 1977, and died May 11, 1985, in Woodstock, Illinois, of congestive heart failure.[2] Gould is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Woodstock.[17]

In 2005, Gould was inducted into the Oklahoma Cartoonists Hall of Fame in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, by Michael Vance; the Oklahoma Cartoonists Collection, created by Vance, is located in the Toy and Action Figure Museum.[18]


In 1983, two years before Gould's death, his only child, Jean Gould O'Connell, recorded extensive interviews with her father, who spoke at length about his early attempts during the 1920s to get syndicated and the birth of Dick Tracy; these interviews became a major source when she wrote his biography, Chester Gould: A Daughter's Biography of the Creator of Dick Tracy, published by McFarland in 2007. A resident of Geneva, Illinois, Jean Gould O'Connell contributed to the Dick Tracy storylines, appeared as a character in the strip and helped create the Chester Gould-Dick Tracy Museum, her book was an Edgar Award nominee in 2008.

The entire run of Dick Tracy is being reprinted in a book series by IDW Publishing; the series began in 2006. The first volume includes the five sample strips that Gould used to sell his strip, followed by over 450 strips showing the series' beginning (from October 1931 – May 1933), along with a Gould interview, never previously published, by Max Allan Collins. Twenty-four more volumes in this series have been published between 2006 and 2019, bringing the continuity to December 1970.


  1. ^ Comics Buyer's Guide #1636 (December 2007); Page 135
  2. ^ a b De Weyer, Geert (2008). 100 stripklassiekers die niet in je boekenkast mogen ontbreken (in Dutch). Amsterdam / Antwerp: Atlas. p. 215. ISBN 978-90-450-0996-4.
  3. ^ Oklahoma Historical Society
  4. ^ Reynolds, Moira Davison (2003). Comic Strip Artists in American Newspapers, 1945–1980. US. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-7864-1551-9. Archived from the original on May 7, 2017. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  5. ^ O'Connell, Jean Gould (2007). Chester Gould: A Daughter's Biography of the Creator of Dick Tracy. US: McFarland. pp. 13–18. ISBN 978-0-7864-2825-0.
  6. ^ To Life and Laughs! — Jewish Journal Oct 22, 1998 - And the 30s were dominated by two Jewish-created strips, the crime saga “Dick Tracy” (Chester Gould); and Al Capp's hillbilly opus “Li'l Abner” ...
  7. ^ Jewish Comic Book Artists - Chester Gould (November 20, 1900 – May 11, 1985) was an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of the Dick Tracy comic strip, which he wrote and ...
  8. ^ Masters of American Comics - Newark Museum - The Jewish Museum ... Oct 13, 2006 - It means Frank King's languid “Gasoline Alley” and Chester Gould's “Dick Tracy,” which set the standard for hard-boiled grit and packed a ...
  9. ^ Smart Watches Where They Came From And Where They Are Going ... Sep 6, 2013 - Jewish and Israeli world business and financial global news. ... Its creator was Chester Gould and the new comic strip first appeared on October 4, ... Gould then continued to write and draw the character for 46 more years until ...
  10. ^ A prayer for the funny pages | The Jewish Standard Dec 15, 2016 - We last checked in with Dick Tracy's Jewish partner Sam Catchem a year ... is sick in the cartoon world created by Chester Gould 85 years ago.
  11. ^ Jewish Cartoonists - shalomhaverim ... Jordan B. Gorfinkel, comic book writer (Batman) and cartoonist; Chester Gould · Steve Greenberg, ... Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies.
  12. ^ "Chester Gould : Alumni Exhibit: Northwestern University Archives". Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  13. ^ O'Connell, Jean Gould (2007). Chester Gould: A Daughter's Biography of the Creator of Dick Tracy. US: McFarland. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-7864-2825-0. Archived from the original on February 21, 2008. Retrieved July 3, 2012.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Detective Fiction on Stamps: United States 1995: Dick Tracy". Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  16. ^ "The Chester Gould Dick Tracy Museum". Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  17. ^ Kane County Chronicle
  18. ^ "OCC Bios". Archived from the original on June 24, 2016. Retrieved April 27, 2017.

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