Friday, June 19, 2009

Keith Ward's Texaco Fire Chief Pups

I hadn't really thought about it before but Keith Ward might be able to attach his name to more cartoon product mascots than any other mid-century illustrator.

During W.W. II it was Ward who brought us the "Prophylactic Pigs" (no, I'm not kidding).

A few years later Ward's cigar-chomping, hat-wearing cartoon rhino became the thick skinned spokesbeast for Armstrong Tires...

... and he has long been credited with creating Borden's Elsie the Cow. Although Ward probably illustrated a multitude of Elsie ads (and may even have had a hand in her design), Elsie is actually the creation of David Reid, according to his obituary.

For several years in the early 50's Keith Ward produced a long series of ads for Texaco featuring "The Fire Chief Pups".

Depending on the time of year, Ward's rambunctious litter of Dalmatian puppies regularly appeared in all the major magazines, tirelessly engaged in seasonally appropriate activities.

Pau Medrano (who has provided so many of this week's scans) has a theory that Keith Ward's Texaco Pups may have been of some inspiration for the 1961 animated Disney film, 101 Dalmatians. In fact, he believes that Ward might have been connected with Disney in some manner.

Supporting Pau's theory is a really intriguing post put together by California cartoonist Will Finn on his blog, Small Room, where he shows examples from a 1945 book illustrated by Keith Ward that seem to have greatly influenced the look of the 1973 Disney version of Robin Hood.

So much about Keith Ward's career remains a mystery... but this remarkably talented and versatile artist deserves recognition for his long association with a variety of memorable cartoon product mascots.

* Many thanks to Pau Medrano Bigas for providing so many of this week's scans, as well as all sorts of interesting information.

* My Keith Ward Flickr set.


  1. Fantastic ...:)

    A bientôt !

  2. Was Keith Ward friends/coworkers with Bill Peet? That could be the Disney connection. I believe Peet wrote the 101 Dalmations story, and was very influential in the look of the Sword in the Stone, Jungle Book, Robin Hood - in fact those movies are basically animated Peet books.

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