If you ever want to see just how much sports and society have changed over the past 75 years, you need look no further than the cover of this 1944 Navy – Duke football program. It was drawn by Gib Crockett, the editorial cartoonist for the old Washington Evening Star, as part of his supplemental career of illustrating Navy football program covers. It was a passion that wound up outlasting the newspaper for which he worked.
Consider the ways in which this program cover could no longer exist today. For one thing, the art of cover illustration has been almost totally replaced by photography, a trend that began sporadically as early as the 1930s and has accelerated unabated ever since. Beyond that, the appearance of mascots is now strictly confined to officially approved, computer-generated logos, usually with ferocious expressions and flashing fangs. The idea of having an independent illustrator actually use his imagination to create a goat and a devil of his own would likely be met with a summons to appear at 9:00 Monday morning in the federal copyright court.
And then there’s the little matter of that pouch of “Duke’s Mixture” cigarette tobacco, a product that for many decades was the favored brand of thrifty smokers who preferred to roll their own cigarettes rather than spring for the more costly pre-rolled varieties. In the full-sized poster, you can see in sharp relief the details of both the package illustration and the seal that served to tighten the straps on the pouch, each with a carefully embossed Liggett & Myers trademark. It had only been 20 years prior to this game that Trinity College was renamed Duke University under an endowment granted by tobacco king James Buchanan Duke of the American Tobacco Company, so the only thing that was mildly surprising about this cigarette cover was the Blue Devil’s choice of tobacco was that of a rival company’s brand.
There had been previous uses of cigarettes on football program covers, and in fact during the 1935 season there were hundreds of programs that featured actual advertisements for Lucky Strike right there up front, usually as part of a stadium crowd scene. But to our knowledge this is the only example of a non-commercial use of an actual tobacco brand on any program cover. And what a sublime example it is, with the Blue Devil baiting the Navy goat as if he were waving a red flag at a bull. And in response to the bait, the annoyed goat’s Navy team kept the Devils out of the end zone all afternoon, en route to a 7-0 victory.
Click here to buy a poster of this program cover.