A Chicago Tribune Geek-Out !

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This is going to be a crazy quilt of material concerning aspects of the Chicago Tribune that have injected themselves into my personal and professional life. It was originally going to be exclusively about the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition and the book of entries published in 1922, but the more I started writing, the more I realized that there were several fun and interesting elements I could cover. . .

Here goes. . .

. . . the most recent (shameless self-promotion) first.

In 2004 our animation production studio created and produced a rebranding campaign for The Chicago Tribune that still ranks as some of my favorite work ! It all stemmed from having done some pro-bono (free) work for the ad agency DDB Needham in Chicago, and being in the right place at the right time to participate as an integral part of the agency’s pitch for the work. Not only was I thrilled to have been in on the ground floor of the project, but the people I worked with were fabulous ! Consisting of a TV, theatrical, print, transit, outdoor and web presence, it was truly a dream project ! But what was even better than the work we were able to do, was the chance to work with an organization that had been a thread in my life since I was a kid. Here are two examples from the TV campaign: “Anthem”: https://vimeo.com/41875017 – “Cafe”: https://vimeo.com/41875251 – and here’s a film showing the overall campaign: https://vimeo.com/92971489

Next. . .

My interest in “The Trib” started with its comicstrips – especially the Sunday color pages ! I also had an extra reason to be enthralled with its comics – my mom shared a college address at Chicago’s “Three Arts Club” with Jean Gould, Chester Gould’s daughter. He created and drew “Dick Tracy”, also one of my dad’s favorite strips while he was growing up. Gould was kind enough to do a sketch of Tracy and “Junior” for my mom and it remains a treasured memento. . .

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Chester Gould’s pen & ink drawing done for my mother Maria Svolos – 1955.


Gould in his Tribune Tower studio – February 1932.

. . .and there’s this. . .

As a kid, I spent a lot of time in resale and junk shops around Chicago and Evanston. One of the things that always seemed to be available for next to nothing, were small oblong publications called “The Linebook”. They were filled with charming collections of poems and writings reprinted from the Trib’s column “A Line o’ Type or Two” started in 1901 by Bert Leston Taylor. When Richard Henry Little took over the column in 1924, he established “The Linebook” – an annual compilation of material from the column. The first issue’s cover design displayed his silhouette in full, ungainly length, but as of 1926 they employed colorful and playful wraparound covers to grab fans of the column. These covers more often than not depicted Little’s image designed by a long list of talented graphic designers. Bit by bit I gobbled them up and eventually collected up the entire 1924 to 1948 run presented below. . .

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The Linebook’s first printing.

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A copy of the publication’s second run.


An “letter to the editor” from January 9, 1941 that explains why there was a reprinted version of the first printing of “The Linebook”.

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Design/illustration by well known Chicago Tribune cartoonist John T. McCutcheon.

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This piece by John McCutcheon titled “Injun Summer”, first appeared on the Trib’s front page in 1907. It proved so popular that it was reprinted annually from 1912 to 1992.

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Boris Riedel, artist. Riedel also did the first cover of the short lived (and “New Yorker” inspired) 1920’s magazine, “The Chicagoan”. The 1926 Linebook had several iterations, most utilizing versions of Riedel’s design.

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Riedel’s design in miniature on the cover plate.

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The verdant inside front cover of the edition above signed by Riedel.

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Yet another version of the 1926 edition with a binding of velvet.

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Cover design by cartoonist Peter Arno (1904-1968). Arno was a well known personality in artist and performance circles. His contributions to “The New Yorker” magazine were frequent between 1925 and 1968 as both a cover designer and cartoonist within. He was one of the “Roaring 20’s” icons.

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Artist – “Boris” signed at very bottom of the front cover. I doubt that it’s Boris Riedel however.

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Artist – Boris Artzybasheff (1899-1965). He was a prolific book illustrator but also well known for his magazine covers. For Time magazine alone, he illustrated more than 200 covers between 1941 and 1965.

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Artist – signed “Foy” within the RHL mask on the far left. Could possibly be Fraunces Foy.

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Artist – Clayton Rawson (1906-1971)

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Artist – magazine and poster designer, William P. Welsh (1889-1984).

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Designer unknown.

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Artist – Hugh (Maxwell) Chenoweth (1903 – ?). Known as an illustrator/designer and as syndicated “Polly Pippin” comicstrip cartoonist.

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Artist – Lester Beall (1903 – 1969) Beall worked in Chicago through 1935 when he moved to NYC. He developed into an innovative graphic designer and worked in advertising, poster design and helped establish the modernist graphic design movement in the U.S.

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Designer of this diorama has signed with a faint “MILAN” on the sidewalk curb.

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Illustrator unknown.

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Artist – Stan Ekman (1913 – 1998), Ekman was known for illustrating magazine covers as well as landscape genres. Barely in his 20s he designer the original “Double A” American Airlines logo in 1934.

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Ekman’s AA logo on the airline’s original administration building at La Guardia Airport in Queens, New York.

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Pete Hawley illustrator (1916 – 1975). From Drew Friedman’s blog on Hawley: “Pete Hawley’s (1916-1975) colorful artwork was some of the most appealing and instantly recognizable for nearly four decades, though, unlike, say, Norman Rockwell, few at the time actually knew his name. Hawley was possibly the most in-demand illustrator for greeting cards (for American Greetings), record album covers, coloring books, print advertisements, and MAINLY clothing ads, especially for swimsuits and lingerie, all featuring impossibly sexy young females, smiling, cheerful and horny young men, and adorable, rosy-cheeked children, babies and animals. Like Rockwell, Hawley employed his neighbors and family members to be his models, his work celebrating the fantasy world of idilic, healthy, active, beaming white-bread post World War II American’s at their most cheerful.”

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Signed Ben Cohen, but I wasn’t able to find anything definitively specific about him.

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Designer – Sol Berger. Berger was and award winning Chicago based art director designer.

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Artist – Joseph “Gary” Sheahan (1893–1978). Sheahan was a Winnetka IL native and joined the Chicago Tribune as an illustrator in 1922. Soon after WWI broke out he volunteered as a war correspondent/artist.

Normandy after D-Day, June 8, 1944 Watercolor on paper by Gary Sheahan, 1944 Gift of Gary Sheahan, ICHi-68461

“Normandy after D-Day”, June 8, 1944Watercolor on paper by Gary Sheahan, 1944Gift of Gary Sheahan, Chicago History Museum #ICHi-68461.

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Artist – W.H. Wisner (1894-1963) Wisner worked as an illustrator at the Chicago Herald and was manager of the editorial art department at the Trib.

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Curt Gfroerer – artist (1892-1957). Worked as an artist/illustrator at several Chicago newspapers including the Herald and Daily News. Started at the Trib as a staff artist in 1937 and illustrated the Sunday Garden Column.

Curt Gfroerer's masthead cartoon for the "This Week In The Garden" column. Gfroerer was an avid (not Aphid) gardener.

Curt Gfroerer’s masthead cartoon for the “This Week In The Garden” column. Gfroerer was an avid (not to be confused with aphid) gardener. . .

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Designer unknown.

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Designer unknown.

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Designer unknown.

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Herb Ruud – artist. Ruud was a book illustrator and supported the arts in general by helping to establish the “Festival Of The Arts” in nearby Libertyville IL.


“Let’s Eat Out !” 1965 Illustrated by Herb Ruud.

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Assorted Tribune Linebook mailing envelopes.

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A memorial booklet from 1944 produced by The Tribune Company as a tribute to Bert Leston Taylor, who in 1901 created the Trib’s “A Line o’ Type or Two” column, from which the contents of The Linebook was taken.

. . . and this . . .

It’s hard to be a Chicagoan and NOT be acutely aware of its place in architectural history. The city is an amazing environment, surrounding you with historic structures chronicling every phase of American architectural style and technique ! After all, the Great Fire of 1871 wiped the landscape clean and it was a open palette for builders. One of the gems of the eclectic Chicago skyline is the Tribune Tower built from 1923-25. But the circumstances surrounding its ultimate design are an interesting chapter in world architectural (and bibliophile) history. In 1922 The Trib announced it was going to build the most beautiful skyscraper ever. As a genius step of self-promotion, they offered $50,000.00 as a first prize for the winning design, 20K for second place, and 10K for third. The contest garnered marvelous coverage by the press and tallied 263 entries from a total of 23 different countries. To add some class to the process, the Trib offered an entry award of $2000.00 each to ten nationally prominent architectural firms. Raymond Hood won for his gothic inspired design. Other competing architects were Walter Gropius, Eliel Saarinen, Bertram Goodhue (whose former studio at 2 West 47 Street, I worked in from 1984-90) and Adolf Loos. All of the entries were gathered in a book and published by the Tribune. I think I first saw the huge, 2 1/2″ thick cinder block of a publication when I was in high school. I dreamt of one day having a copy. I woke up from my dream in 1990 when I finally got my own. It’s a beautiful tome bound in (unfortunately less than acid-free) burlap, and has a lovely dust-jacket.


The Tribune Tower Competition – 1922.


The book without its dust jacket showing its burlap binding.

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The reverse side of the dust jacket – $5.00 !


Walter Gropius stands in front of the design done with Adolf Meyer as submitted to the Tribune Tower Competition.


Adolf Loos entry.


Eliel Saarinen entry.


The final winning drawing and scale model by New York architects John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood. The model still holds court in the Tribune Tower’s penthouse.

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Vintage Tribune Tower observation deck ticket.

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Reverse side of ticket.

Another favorite book in JJSP studio collection here is “The WGN” – a companion volumr to the publication above. They were on a roll in 1922 and took full advantage of the self-promotional potential. Anyone from Chicago knows WGN as the local broadcasting institution. Its television station (channel 9) was one of the first “Superstations” to narrowcast over cable starting in 1978, and its radio station (720AM) has been on the air since that heralded year of 1922. “WGN” stands for “world’s greatest newspaper” – one guess as to which newspaper was behind this media giant. . .


Inside reverse flap of Tribune Tower Competition dust jacket touting its companion book “The WGN”.

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“The WGN” 1922 – somewhat of a companion volume to the “Tribune Tower Competition”.

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First page of The WGN showing the wonderful hand drawn typography.

Two more Trib promo items are the “…..Pictured Encyclopedia of the World’s Greatest Newspaper” from 1928 and a small booklet called “From Paper To Papers” from 1932.

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Tribune Art Production Department 1928.

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Example of how images can be rendered for printing.

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Ben Day Process – named after illustrator and printer Benjamin Henry Day, Jr., it uti
lizes series and combinations of dotes and textures for shading and color.

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A proposed future addition/extension of the Tribune Tower and creation of a “Tribune Square”. I’ve never seen this schematic reproduced anywhere before.

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Very few people remember these staples of comicstripdom. Andy Gump was from “The Gumps” by Sidney Smith, Winnie Winkle was by Martin Branner, “Smitty” was by Walter Berndt, and Harold Teen was by Carl Ed (pronounced “eed”).

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Harold gray’s “pupilless “Little Orphan Annie”, Frank Willard’s “Moon Mullins”, Frank King’s AMAZING “Gasoline Alley”, and “Texas Slim by Ferd Johnson.

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A stroll around the perimeter of the building is like a mini world-tour. The surface of the walls are peppered with masonry fragments from locations that span the globe.

An example of fragments from world famous locations inserted into the face of the Tribune Tower's facade.

An example of fragments from world famous locations inserted into the face of the Tribune Tower’s facade.

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Special trains delivered the supplies to the printing plant attached to the rear of the Tribune Tower. Tracks ran west/east two stories below street level and access was direct to the building. Remnants remain but the trains haven’t run there in decades.

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A small booklet from 1932 that yet again, presented the process of manufacturing paper and news. . .

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Intro page to “From Papers To Papers” with apropos (uncredited) woodcut design.

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An seasoned master does his thing. . .

. . .and finally. . .

While on a business trip in Chicago in the 1980’s, I ventured up to the Tower’s penthouse to see what use it was getting. I had been up there when I was a small child and remembered it had been Chester Gould’s studio, but he wasn’t there during that particular visit. This time I knocked on the door and a very tall, sandy haired fella in white socks answered the door. It was Jeff MacNelly, Trib political cartoonist AND creator and cartoonist of “Shoe” one of my favorite strips ! I knew who MacNelly was and told him how much I loved his strip. He invited me in and spent 15 minutes just chatting – and bending over slightly because the garret he inhabited was probably just shy of 6 feet and he was easily 6’4″. How cool it must’ve been to be using the same space that Gould had used for his cartooning career ! Jeff MacNelly passed away in 2000 at only 53 years old, and the cartooning world lost one of its brightest stars.

Jeff MacNelly (1947-2000)

Jeff MacNelly (1947-2000)


MacNelly’s comicstrip character Shoe, aka P. Martin Shoemaker.

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Example of MacNelly’s editorial work for the Chicago Tribune.

I’ll close the circle here by going back to the “fabulous people” I worked with on the Tribune animation. They were Grant Hill as Head Of Production, Becky Ruff as producer, Geoff McCartney as copywriter, and (I kid you not) finally – Richard “Dick” Tracy as art director. . .



Related resources:

  1. Designing the Editorial Experience A Primer for Print, Web, and Mobile

  2. Damn Good: Top Designers Discuss Their All-Time Favorite Projects