Thrills of the Chase

John Churchill Chase’s enduring legacy in New Orleans.

On November 5, 1962, more than 1,200 people, including Mayor Victor Schiro and Gov. Jimmie Davis, filled the International Room of the Roosevelt Hotel to honor local historian, cartoonist and author John Churchill Chase. Edison B. Allen, author of Of Time and Chase, described the event as “one of the largest and liveliest testimonial dinners for any person, political or non-political, that New Orleans has ever seen.” 

John Churchill Chase was an editorial cartoonist for New Orleans newspapers from 1927 to ’64. His character “Mr. New Orleans” (aka “The Little Man”), with his top hat, bushy moustache and eyeglasses, was the voice of New Orleans in many ways. In ’64, Chase became the nation’s first editorial cartoonist for television (WDSU-TV). He also designed football program covers for Tulane University.

While Chase was known to many for his illustrations, his most enduring legacies were his books. A 1942 art commission from D.H. Holmes led Chase to the library archives for research, and that led him to the history of the streets of New Orleans. In ’49, after using the material regularly in speaking engagements, Chase decided to put it all down into a book, and called it Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children and Other Streets of New Orleans. It has become one of the most popular and iconic books on New Orleans history, and is as entertaining as it is informative.

Chase died in 1986, but his name lives on. In ’91, a part of Calliope Street in New Orleans was renamed John Churchill Chase Street. It is a fitting honor for a man who caused the streets of New Orleans to come so alive in the imaginations of so many.

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