Cartoon from Collier's, reprinted in the Clarion Ledger on 8 January 1956
Cartoon from Collier's, reprinted in the Clarion Ledger on 8 January 1956

Chon Day was an American magazine gag cartoonist, whose slightly sardonic depictions of everyday (family) life have work appeared in The New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Playboy, among other magazines. He is however best remembered as the creator of 'Brother Sebastian' (1954-1971), a cartoon character appearing in Look magazine for 17 years.

The Saturday Evening Post, 6 January 1951
The Saturday Evening Post, 6 January 1951

Chauncey Addison Day was born in 1907 in Madison, New Jersey. His first cartoons appeared in The Burr, the college humor paper of Lehigh University in 1926. He later attended Art Students League in New York City in 1929, shortly before the Great Depression. Among his teachers were Boardman Robinson, George Bridgman and John Sloan. Bridgman allegedly one day erased an entire drawing on which Day had spent two weeks, only to redraw it in his own way. Day in turn erased his teacher's drawing and left the classroom for good. His teacher Sloan however had encouraged him to pursue cartooning. In an article of 16 May 1983 in The Daily Spectrum from Saint George, Utah, Day recalled presenting his drawings to magazine offices, and being able to pay a month's rent with six sales. His early cartoons appeared in smaller magazines like Film Fun, Ballyhoo, Slapstick and Hooey.

Comic strip by Chon Day about the meaning of dreams, published in The Indianapolis Star on 8 December 1946
Comic strip about the meaning of dreams, published in The Indianapolis Star on 8 December 1946

He was present in The New Yorker since the early 1940s, and this magazine always offered his cartoons to this magazine first, before presenting them to other publications. He was also a longtime contributor to the Saturday Evening Post from 1934, and his work further ran in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping and Hugh Hefner's Playboy. His cartoons were drawn in clear, fluent lines and mostly reflected the changing times in America with a sardonic, dry wit. His most famous creation was 'Brother Sebastian, the Merry Monk', a whimsical, spectacled Roman Catholic monk who was able to pull humor from the most serious of events. His largely pantomime gags appeared in Look magazine from 1954 until the magazine folded in 1971. Doubleday released several collections of 'Brother Sebastian' cartoons.

Brother Sebastian  by Chon DayBrother Sebastian  by Chon Day
Brother Sebastian

Besides magazines, Day's cartoons have also appeared in newspapers. His work was featured on syndicated cartoon pages like 'Humor Parade' (Consolidated News Features, 1936) and 'Chirps and Chuckles' (King Features, 1937), alongside the work of other cartoonists. Between 1942 and 1948 he drew a weekly 'Crack-Ups' panel for Field Enterprises, while Irving Roir, Mischa Richter, Virgil Partch, Ed Nofziger, Ned Hilton and Corka alternated on the strip during the other days of the week. Day's cartoons were furthermore used for promotional purposes. He was present on cartoon pages syndicated to newspapers by Calvet Distillers ('Metropolitan Moments') and Wheaties Cereals in the mid 1940s, while his features 'Misguided Missiles' (mid 1950s) and 'Rushin' Roulette' (mid 1960s) spread the message of The Travelers Safety Service.

Misguided Missiles by Chon DayLast Laugh by Chon Day

It is impossible to determine the exact amount of cartoons Chon Day has produced. Day turned out about 12 to 15 rough sketches per week during his seventy-years career. He orginally wrote his own snappy punchlines, but left this work to gag writers later in his career. When the cartoonist passed away on New Year's Day 2000 at the age of 93, the Saturday Evening Post honored him as one of their longest running cartoonists for more than half a century. Day was however praised during his lifetime as well. The National Cartoonists Society named him Best Gag Cartoonist in 1956, 1962 and 1970, and honored 'Brother Sebastian' with a Special Features Award in 1969.

Chon Day appearing in a tobacco ad in the Harrisburg Telegraph, 28 November 1934 (bottom right)
Chon Day appearing in a tobacco ad in the Harrisburg Telegraph, 28 November 1934 (bottom right)

Brother Sebastian cartoons on Mike Lynch's blog

Series and books by Chon Day in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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