A cover from the early 1960s.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: George A. Pflaum
First Appeared: 1946
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Treasure Chest wasn't a very prominent or influential comic book, nor was it distinguished by extraordinary quality (tho it did manage to hold its own against much of what was published at the time). But it was very long-lived — in fact, it was probably America's …

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… longest-running comic book to make extensive use of non-fiction — and it's fondly recalled by generations of parochial school students.

Comics had been criticized as vulgar and violent since the very beginning. But by the mid-1940s, with Lev Gleason's Crime Does Not Pay gaining readership and publishers such as Fiction House and Fox Feature Syndicate relying heavily on their protagonists' sex appeal, the criticism was growing louder. Within another decade, it would reach fever pitch, with comic books blamed for everything from juvenile delinquency to eyestrain — but meanwhile, one response to the criticism was to create a thoroughly wholesome comic book, from a source that would never be suspected of publishing anything else.

Publisher George A. Pflaum was such a source. He was well known to Catholic parents for producing religiously correct reading material for all members of the family. Pflaum published Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact on a bi-weekly schedule, starting with a cover date of March 12, 1946.

Treasure Chest wasn't distributed on newsstands. It was available only by subscription, through the Catholic school system. Mailing costs were kept down by distributing subscription copies right in the classroom. Thus, it didn't come out during vacation months (except in 1966 and '67, when it published six-issue Summer editions). Another cost saver, at least in its early days, was printing the cover on the same grade of paper as the insides, so the whole package could be done in one press run rather than two. (Slick covers were added in 1948.)

For such an out-of-the-way publication, Treasure Chest had quite a bit of mainstream talent. Bernard Baily (The Spectre, Hourman) was an early contributor. Bob Powell (Cave Girl, Jet Powers), Joe Sinnott (Thor, Fantastic Four) and Frank Borth (There Oughta Be a Law!, which was a knock-off of They'll Do It Every Time) were all regulars. Even Graham Ingels, best known for his amazingly grisly artwork in Tales from the Crypt and other EC horror comics (where he signed his work with the pen name "Ghastly"), did a few stories there. By far, the most collectible artist to do extensive work at Treasure Chest was another EC man, Reed Crandall, whose credits include Blackhawk and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.

Despite its lily-white image, Treasure Chest contained a fair amount of lurid, sensational material — for example, its 1961-62 "This Godless Communism" series (drawn by Crandall) was loaded with death and degradation. But since the thrills were in service of a popular point of view, few eyebrows were raised.

Most of its contents, tho, were as pure as the comic's reputation. Sports, kids in school, lives of saints, and other harmless entertainments made up the bulk of its fare. A typical series was the long-running "Chuck White & His Friends", about a young man who befriends a succession of boys about the same age as most readers. Chuck himself, who was sole protagonist of the series before he grew up, was introduced in the very first issue as a boy with a vexing problem shared by at least a few readers even back then — his father was a Protestant! Many of the 1960s "Chuck White" stories were drawn by Fran Matera (Little Annie Rooney, Mike Nomad).

After a couple of decades, Treasure Chest began to run out of steam. The mid-1960s Summer editions ended after only two years. In the late '60s, it stepped down to monthly publication, tho it doubled the size of issues. (This saved money by reducing press time and halving the number of covers needed.) Finally, it was replaced on Pflaum's publishing schedule by more up-to-date magazines aimed at Catholic kids. The last issue was dated July, 1972.

Altogether, Treasure Chest published about 500 issues — putting it, by that criterion at least, well within the top percentile of American comic books, despite the fact that most of today's comics readers have never even heard of it.


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Text ©2001-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © George A. Pflaum.