"Treasure Chest" Catholic Comic Book - anyone remember?

Okay, you have to be a pretty old Catholic to remember this…but one of the longest-running comic books in American history was “Treasure Chest of Fun and Facts”, a comic book that was distributed through parochial schools throughout the U.S. from 1946 to 1972 (about 500 issues). It was one of the few (well, only) comic books that the sisters at St. Mark’s Elementary actually encouraged us to buy and read. You could sign up for a very reasonable subscription price and get your copy through the Church. You couldn’t buy it at a newsstand, but it had the same format as every other comic book we bought.

It was actually quite well done. Each issue had stories from the Bible, lives of Saints, sports stories, stories of famous Americans, and the long-running “Chuck White” series - a humorous adventure series about a (slightly overweight) Catholic boy, who was the offspring of a mixed marriage (Protestant dad and Catholic Mom, something a lot of us dealt with, but which was humorously dealt with), and which included some very forward-looking social stands - Chuck was probably the first character in American comic books to have African-American friends.

A lot of classic comic book artists and writers moonlighted on Treasure Chest, including artists like Graham Ingels (better known for his graphic horror stories on the “Tales from the Crypt” and other E.C. comics), Reed Crandall (DC’s “Blackhawk” and Tower Comics’ T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents"), Joe Sinnott (Thor, Fantastic Four), and lots more.

If you want to look at some old issues, all the issues from 1946 to 1963 are archived here:

aladin0.wrlc.org/gsdl/cgi-bin/library?e=d-01000-00—off-0treasure–00-1–0-10-0—0---0prompt-10—4-------0-1l–11-en-50—20-home—01-3-1-00-0-0-11-0-0utfZz-8-00&a=d&cl=CL6

This site has all the issues from 1946 to 1972 archived, hours of reading enjoyment:

archives.lib.cua.edu/findingaid/treasurechest.cfm

As comic books (cough) urrr, “graphic novels” are being used know to provide lessons in business, science, history, and every social cause under the planet, it’s interesting to realize that the Church was one of the earliest institutions to use that format for education of its members.

I think the Church should start Treasure Chest back up again. What a great tool for apologetics and teaching kids about the Church, and to encourage the lessons of spirituality, charity, and faith in a fun and attractive format.

Bring back Chuck White!!!

I remember comic books on saints stories but I don’t particularly remember this “Treasure Chest” series.
In Mexico Buena Prensa (run by Jesuits) printed (and I believe they still do) a Spanish version of Comic Book stories of Saints series.
It would be great if someone brought back this Treasure Chest collection back into print. Our poor youth is so ignorant of their Catholic roots.

Bea

Thank you for this!! We got “Treasure Chest” Friday afternoons at our parochial grammar school in Massachusetts (my years there being 1955-1960), and once they were distributed by Sister, school work shut down for the rest of the day. Great memories!

Same here. Loved it! Everybody did. Makes a person wonder why in the world they don’t resurrect it or something very much like it.

I had a crush on Chuck White. Remember the ice boat story?

Remember the African-American who won the primary in the story about the US election. We never saw his face until the very last panel of the story that ran for, what, 10 months?

Treasure Chest and Highlights for Children were the two things I looked forward to each month.

I read Treasure Chest when I was a student in Grades 4 - 6 (late 1960s). I happened to come across it again about 5 years ago. Since then I have collected every issue between 1965 to 1972. I have enjoyed reading these with my kids. They have enjoyed it too. I especially remember the story “Mystery of Showboat Cavern” from 1969. I note that every issue of Treasure Chest is now available to read on the internet. Great reading!

I’ve heard of this due to having a life long interest in and collecting comics but never read it. I knew a number of well known and prominent artists worked on it so I thought I would take a look, I must say Reed Crandall’s strip ‘This Godless Communism’ is massively simplistic propaganda and even in it’s day must have appeared that way to many. Some of the other strips are far better but that one despite having quite decent arc was just hilariously poorly written. Especially the opening page that tells you about the Russian revolution been formented by people rising up against their representative government, what representative government? There was none to speak of! Also there is then an exchange of panels about children been cared for in special schools away from parents, my wife grew up in the USSR, this simply did not happen. It’s bull hockey as you Americans say from a time when reds were purported to be under every bed. Instead of making a reasonable case against communism anyone reading it who cared to investigate the history of Russia or surrounding nations would actually tend to view that strip as bad propaganda. Just as bad as simplistic versions of the USA coming forth from the other side.

I want to mention comics artist and inker Joe Sinnott.

For many, if not most comic book fans Joe Sinnott is considered the “The World’s Greatest Comic Book Inker”, both figuratively and literally. He is perhaps best known for a long run on the Fantastic Four series (famously touted as “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine”).

“Joltin’” Joe Sinnott was born in upstate New York in 1926. He developed an interest in art as a young boy, having been inspired by a gentleman who had been renting a room in his family’s home, and would draw pictures for little Joe, who would be sitting on the armrest of his chair. After serving in the Navy, Joe attended art school and afterwards began getting his work published.

In a career spanning 60 years Joe has drawn most of the characters produced by Marvel Comics including Captain America, The Incredible Hulk and The X-Men. Although “officially” retired, he still remains active on occasional projects, and inks the Spider Man Sunday newspaper strip.

In spite of this dazzling and colorful array of fantasy and adventure, Joe’s favorite work is that which he did for the publication Treasure Chest, a comic magazine which he had drawn for in the 1960’s and '70’s, and which was distributed in Catholic schools.

"I sent some art samples to them because my kids had brought a few home from St. Mary’s school, and they called me right away. They felt my style would fit perfectly with the scripts that they had, so the first story I got from them was the life of Joyce Kilmer, the poet who was killed in WWI, who wrote the famous poem ‘Trees’, and who wrote many other great poems.

"After that, it seemed like Treasure Chest gave me mostly biographies like I Pope John XXIII, and MacArthur and Eisenhower, and Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. I really enjoyed working for Treasure Chest a great deal. They only had the one book, and years later, they finally had to suspend operations because a lot of Catholic schools were closing around the nation and they no longer had an outlet. They tried to sell them on the newsstands but they were lost with all of Marvel’s and DC’s books.

"It was a great magazine. It really was. They appealed to all different aspects of the kids. There was adventure, there were biographies, there were stories that you learned from, and I did stories, on a history of kites and the history of tails on animals. Each animal has a tail, and the tail is the most important part of the animal, whether it’s a possum or a fox, or whatever.

“The fox, of course he keeps warm in the winter time with his tail. And the horse swishes the flies away with his tail. So that was a very interesting story I did. And I also did the history of stagecoaches and things like that. The stories were extremely interesting, and they gave you the chance to do some good art.”

In fact, a ten issue speculative storyline in the magazine, a kind of “1976 in Prophecy,” forecast the election of the first black U.S. president!

Ironically, yet fittingly, years later Joe was called upon to work on biographies of Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, which were collaborations between Marvel Comics and the Catholic Church.

Recently it has become common for notable comic book stories and magazines to be reprinted in both hard and softcover book form. It would seem “timely” and appropriate, then that, hopefully, Joe’s Treasure Chest work will appear in such a form at some point!

(Quotes are from an upcoming article about Joe in Filmfax magazine.)

Yes, I remember “Treasure Chest,” although I haven’t thought about it for years. The school obtained enough copies for all the students. I don’t remember how often it came out, but on coming in from recess on the day it arrived I would notice the stack of “Treasure Chest’s” on Sister’s desk, and then she would pass them out.

As I said, the Catholic Church should return to using comic books as a means of education and evangelization. Don’t turn the medium over to Jack Chick and his ilk.

Yes, I remember “Treasure Chest” quite a bit–we subscribed to it in 4th and 5th grade (1968-70), saw an issue or two of the giant-size version of the early '70s, and my sister got quite a few earlier '60s issues at flea markets when we were in college. It was an awesome magazine. The first issue I ever saw was I think the first fall issue of '65, where Chuck White the younger (the big-city streetwise kid Chuck White the older adopted) first came to Steeltown and immediately was black-eyed by big, burly Sam Troop (who somehow over the next few years actually grew a bit littler and became Chuck’s follower/sidekick !!!). Over the years, I have also often prayed the grace that Chuck the older prayed in that episode–I fondly remember how an old girlfriend of mine would smile and make Chuck’s line, “Bless it to our use, and us to Your service,” her own!

That issue of TC, I got from my cousins. I didn’t have a chance to subscribe myself until several years later. I still remember the deliciousness of that first cover, drawn by Frank Borth and divided up into small panels showing his main characters–“Sock–Griff–Zork–Pippa–Ebhard–Sea Rover I–V.I.P.E.R.!–in ‘THE DEEP-SIX MYSTERY’–starting this issue!” I loved Fran Matera’s art on Chuck White–though over the years I’ve become a little disillusioned by what seems a slapdash style, not like the wistful, early-fall feel of the ‘Chuck Comes To Steeltown’ episode–BUT I think that my favorite TC artist of all is Frank Borth.

Borth had a deceptively simple style that, I think, was actually genius. His kids were cartoony but down-home–actually his settings always seemed cartoony yet down-home–and it was awesome the way he could lay out the scene for an entire continued story. An earlier post mentioned the Showboat Cavern mystery (with Rita & Rick)–I remember he did a wraparound cover for TC that you could play like a board game that took you deeper and deeper into the cavern. Another favorite of mine (but I’ve never seen the conclusion!) about a couple of girls who get trapped on a mighty unfriendly island where some sort of illegal activity is taking place–laid out the setting early in the story with a map, showing the main points on the unfriendly island, the old sea fort not far from it, and the land bridge between the two. I think Frank sometimes wrote his stories, sometimes illustrated others’.

Yes, I remember “Treasure Chest” quite a bit–we subscribed to it in 4th and 5th grade (1968-70), saw an issue or two of the giant-size version of the early '70s, and my sister got quite a few earlier '60s issues at flea markets when we were in college. It was an awesome magazine. The first issue I ever saw was I think the first fall issue of '65, where Chuck White the younger (the big-city streetwise kid Chuck White the older adopted) first came to Steeltown and immediately was black-eyed by big, burly Sam Troop (who somehow over the next few years actually grew a bit littler and became Chuck’s follower/sidekick !!!). Over the years, I have also often prayed the grace that Chuck the older prayed in that episode–I fondly remember how an old girlfriend of mine would smile and make Chuck’s line, “Bless it to our use, and us to Your service,” her own!

That issue of TC, I got from my cousins. I didn’t have a chance to subscribe myself until several years later. I still remember the deliciousness of that first cover, drawn by Frank Borth and divided up into small panels showing his main characters–“Sock–Griff–Zork–Pippa–Ebhard–Sea Rover I–V.I.P.E.R.!–in ‘THE DEEP-SIX MYSTERY’–starting this issue!” I loved Fran Matera’s art on Chuck White–though over the years I’ve become a little disillusioned by what seems a slapdash style, not like the wistful, early-fall feel of the ‘Chuck Comes To Steeltown’ episode–BUT I think that my favorite TC artist of all is Frank Borth.

Borth had a deceptively simple style that, I think, was actually genius. His kids were cartoony but down-home–actually his settings always seemed cartoony yet down-home–and it was awesome the way he could lay out the scene for an entire continued story. An earlier post mentioned the Showboat Cavern mystery (with Rita & Rick)–I remember he did a wraparound cover for TC that you could play like a board game that took you deeper and deeper into the cavern. Another favorite of mine (but I’ve never seen the conclusion!) about a couple of girls who get trapped on a mighty unfriendly island where some sort of illegal activity is taking place–laid out the setting early in the story with a map, showing the main points on the unfriendly island, the old sea fort not far from it, and the land bridge between the two. I think Frank sometimes wrote his stories, sometimes illustrated others’.

I think my favorite Frank Borth story is “The Champ at Camp”–I think Chris Moss who wrote some Chuck Whites did the writing on this one. The serial begins with most apathetic patrol at a summer camp suddenly getting excited when they find out the cousin of one of their members is a “Champ” and he’s coming to visit them! But they are crushed when they find out that “Cousin Frumson” is a big fat boy carrying his things in an even bigger burlap bag! Cousin Frumson is bothered by the patrol members’ unwillingness to develop their athletic, and nonchalantly tells them that “with a little bit of practice, I could beat each of you at each of your specialties!” The boys in the patrol can’t believe it–they could whip this fat kid hands down! So Frumson starts exercising day after day, and then vies with each boy at their best sports, obstacle course, track, etc. Sure enough, they all beat him–but he tells each boy that he’s noticed some deficiency in them–“and I bet with one more week of practice, I could beat you!” Frumson keeps exercising, and his cousin in the patrol gets tired of the others’ comments that the fat boy doesn’t know when to quit. So the two start exercising together!

Unfortunately, my sister never found the next three or so chapters of the “Champ” story, but she found the last two. At this point, the entire camp is in a big competition with neighboring camps, and by this time, Frumson has whipped the patrol in enough shape that they actually are winning their events. Finally comes Frumson’s turn at his specialty, canoeing. It’s a suspense-filled, neck-and-neck race, especially at the place where they have to shoot through the rapids. But, at the end of the second-to-last chapter, Frumson’s rival swamps out in the rapids–and for some mysterious reason, Frumson slows down! At the beginning of chapter eight we see why–he goes back to rescue his rival! Frumson’s treasured ironwood paddle has broken, so his rival contributes his own paddle and tells Frumson, “You still might make it!” Frumson tries to catch up, but it’s no use. He loses the race–but due to his efforts, his patrol breaks a record for most events won–and Frumson wins a high honor for his true sportsmanship in sacrificing the race for a contestant in need. This is Treasure Chest at its best–exemplifying discipline, hard work, and the lesson that you can’t judge a book by its cover, or a Champ by his weight!

Well, this post has gone on quite long, and I haven’t said anything about TC’s biographies or about Lloyd Ostendorf’s historical pieces, but I want to end this with my most astounding TC experience … one I should think a lot more of than I do. In the earliest issue my sister found at a flea market, from 1960, they had a text column that was written by a priest. He makes mention, I think, of the hymn “Salve Regina,” and the prayer the “Hail, Holy Queen,” and then tells about their author, a man named Herman who was so deformed and crippled as a child his parents left him in the care of some monks. Herman was quite homely, had a cleft palate and could speak only with great difficulty–I think he could hardly sit up, or hardly lay down, or only move with great difficulty–and yet he had a very strong will to learn. I think the article said that he mastered languages, mathematics, astronomy, music, and wrote treatises and hymns. The article also mentioned the day of his death–Sept. 24, I believe–and suddenly I realized that I was reading about this man, who became a blessed in the Church calendar, on precisely that very date!

Well, that’s enough for now. I think I still have all these issues, though my comics collection has gone through some purges in recent years. And please note that although I’m usually anal-retentive as heck, some of the data in this post may be approximate. Thanks for the chance to relive the memories!

I agree. They should revive Treasure Chest. It would be a welcome break from where (no longer) comic books are today. People of all ages need a combination of entertainment, education and pure, wholesome fun. I had to quit buying comic books decades ago.

Ed

Well, now I have to start hitting my local comic book store to see if they have any back issues! Doubtful, but possible. I remember reading back issues of it in the library of my Catholic elementary school – I don’t remember actually having copies. I remember bits and pieces of different stories. The ones that come immediately to mind was one where a girl who always entered contests finally one something – her own live elephant. There were the Chuck White stories, plus one about the adventures of the son of a French aristocrat who had to go into hiding during the French Revolution.

Well, now I know what to do with my millions after winning the lottery! Bring back TC!

Just a reminder, there are links to on-line archives of the original issues in my first post for anyone who wants to check them out.

I have thought the same thing, but then my automatic “pause” button engages. What would it be like now? Would it be the same “Juan and his Muslim friend save the planet from global warming by starting a community garden.” that kids in grade schools are given to read now?

Might be better to resurrect it when the church in the U.S. is no longer dominated by the people who have obligated us to sing those hymns by Marty Haugen and the St. Louis Jesuits for the last forty years. We are presently in a 1970s time warp that nothing can penetrate. :slight_smile:

Oh yes–“Ellie’s Elephant!” That was another Frank Borth story. My sister found some back issues at a flea market with some of the episodes.

The story about the son of a French aristocrat who went into hiding was another one that I thrilled to in fourth grade–“The Gold Medallion,” illustrated by famed Lincoln artist Lloyd Ostendorf, who also did a good number of the biographies. I remember how young Paul was impressed, or kidnapped, by British sailors who needed some extra hands. Those episodes brought to life the whole impressment issue which was one of the reasons we went to war with Britian in the War of 1812, brought it to life in a more in-depth way than our history textbooks could provide.

What 1970s time warp!?? You must live in a different part of the country–there are so many songs from the 1960s and 1970s that I haven’t heard in years–though I know there are still a few around. But even though I hear a lot about how “shallow” they were, I grew up on them and would love to hear again. Actually I’m practically talking earlier than the St. Louis Jesuits, I’m talking about songs like “Shalom” and “We Are Yours” and “Take My Hands.” Some of them had the simple spirit of loving, trusting children speaking to their Father. I understand that when people deride “Kum-Ba-Yah Christianity” their point is that the faith is more than just singing songs that make you feel cozy, but sometimes the term really gets my goat.

Sorry, I know I’m segueing from the topic, but that little soapbox has been hidden in me for years and it just had to get out. Thanks.

Move to my parish. We sang “Take My Hands” a few weeks ago and this week we sang “I Will Never Forget You My People”.

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