Roscoe E. “Duke” Reading created Last Chance Joe in 1952 as a cartoon figure for Richard L. “Dick” Graves’s Last Chance Café. Graves also owned and operated pinballs and slot machines in Idaho, until gambling was outlawed in the state in 1953. In that same year, Graves opened his first casino called the Reno Nugget. A gold miner version of Last Chance Joe was used in advertisements for the casino.
In 1954, Graves opened his fourth casino in the city of Sparks, Nevada, selling off his other casinos to focus on this one. Wanting to take Last Chance Joe to another level, he sent Reading’s sketches to Rempel Manufacturing. After some negotiations, Rempel earned the rights to sell the character in their “Little Folks from Sunnyslope” line. The character became one of the company’s best-selling toys.
In September 1957, it was announced that a 35-foot-tall figure of Last Chance Joe would stand in front of one of Graves’s new casinos, though the statue wound up only being 32 feet tall. The statue was shipped in three sections via a train car from the construction studio in California to its Nevada home.
Last Chance Joe’s home was acquired by new owners in May 2014, and he was not part of their plans for improving the casino. But fortunately, the city of Sparks, Nevada, rallied to save their beloved cartoon icon. On December 2, 2014, the Sparks Museum installed the giant statue in front of its own building.
Know Before You Go
Last Chance Joe stands on Victoria Avenue near the Pyramid Highway. As he stands outside of the museum he is always visible.