The Archivist’s Nook: Treasure Chest – Your Own Virtual Jesus

Although the 1950s are generally thought of as a White-bread decade, this picture clearly shows Jesus (Sacred Heart) as the humane Savior of all the world’s children. Treasure Chest, v. 14, n 20, June 9, 1959.
Although the 1950s are generally thought of as a White-bread decade, this picture clearly shows Jesus (Sacred Heart) as the humane Savior of all the world’s children. Treasure Chest, v. 14, n 20, June 9, 1959.

As the campus of The Catholic University of America (CUA) and surrounding D.C. community basks in the afterglow of a momentous papal visit and canonization of a new saint, it is not out of order to reflect upon the Christian Savior, Jesus Christ. Now, before anyone gets the notion this archivist is about to impersonate a theologian, let me assure you my mission is an archival one, to study appearances by the Son of God on the covers of the Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book housed in the CUA Archives.

As any user of the Archives, and, indeed, readers of this blog know (see ‘Hark! The Digital Angel Comes!’), Treasure Chest was a Catholic comic book, with over five hundred issues, distributed to the American Catholic parochial school system from 1946 to 1972. Moreover, it is CUA’s most popular digital collection, with visually stunning covers, including one in ten of all covers (53 of 508) featuring images of Jesus.  The first verse of the 23rd Psalms tell us ‘The Lord is my Shepherd,’ but let’s reverse things and Shepherd the Lord through his various Treasure Chest incarnations by looking at some of the best examples.

Statue of Christ ‘I am the Light of the World,’ often referred to by jokers as ‘Christ hailing a cab.’ It originally stood in front of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC) building at 1312 Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C., but now stands in front the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (the former NCWC) building at 3211 Fourth Street. Treasure Chest, v. 7, n. 18, May 8, 1952.

Not surprisingly, about a third of the Jesus covers (18 images) relate to the first Christmas, including scenes of his birth in a Manger, the visit of the Magi, and even an Asian version. As one might imagine, the sacrifice of his brutal execution on the Cross  and subsequent stunning Resurrection account for another large block of covers (19 images). Although less numerous, covers depicting Jesus rebuking Satan (4 images) are intriguing.  The remaining images of Jesus are more singular in nature, but no less notable than others described above or displayed in this text, especially Jesus’ Sacred Heart, The Communion, and even a presumably Scottish or Irish Jesus with red hair!

Ade Bethune’s ‘The Second Coming of Christ’ as described by St. John in the Bible book of Revelations, Chapter 19, Treasure Chest, v. 9, n. 4, October 22, 1953. For more on Bethune see the finding aid for her papers at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

As the archivist who organized and processed the Treasure Chest collection, I have long been aware of the rich variety of Jesus related covers. However, it was Thomas Zenakis’ Icon ‘Christ Pantokrater Enthroned,’ part of the campus museum collection whose image was used in my ‘Collecting the Sacred and Secular’ blog post, that provided inspiration to return to the Treasure Chest seeking images of Jesus that are timeless as well as so reflective of the time in which they were created. Please feel free to be inspired to browse through all Treasure Chest covers either via the archival finding aid or the digital collection site.

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