The Mighty Machetanz, Part 1

Modern day fans can be forgiven for not knowing of Frederick (Fred) Machetanz, but when he passed away in 2002 at the age of 94, he had left quite a legacy as one of the greatest colorist artists that the state of Alaska had ever known, honored both as Alaskan of the Year at the age of 69 and Artist of the Year by American Artist Magazine at the age of 73. His work has been exhibited at leading galleries and museums all over the world.

But before Mr. Machetanz first set foot in the Alaska territory in 1935, he had already established quite a reputation among Ohio State football fans as the producer of perhaps the most impressive collection of program cover artwork the college world has ever seen. Beginning when he was still an undergraduate, Machetanz eventually produced artwork for 37 different covers from 1929 through 1942, when he left to join the Navy in Alaska. He then spent the rest of his life there, first as a Navy Intelligence Officer and then eventually as a full-time artist.

What made Machetanz special was the sheer variety of his drawing styles and his dry humor. One of his best known images, “King Football,” depicts a giant football perched on his throne, majestically surveying a pose of two opposing linemen on the field below. Another memorable image was the “fadeaway” drawing of a quarterback about to throw a pass, with the black background blending into the black uniform jersey in the style earlier made famous by the illustrator Coles Phillips.

But the one you see here is the one where Machetanz puts it all together, in an alleged “campus map” of Ohio State that was inspired by similar comic maps drawn by the “flapper” artist John Held, Jr., whose Yale program covers you can see on our website. In Machetanz’s vision, we see “unexplored” school buildings; “more school buildings” with sleeping students; “a couple of dandies”; sheep and cattle grazing; a “bathing beauty contest at Olenhangy Park”; and – of course – a jungle. After all, where else could a Mr. or Miz Buckeye go to escape the din from all those snoring students?

Click here to buy a poster of this program cover.

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