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The Best Rockwell Covers You’ve Never Seen

Published: September 12, 2009

Think you know all the Norman Rockwell covers for The Saturday Evening Post? Since there were well over 300, probably not. Many of them you’ve seen time and time again, but we’ve dug up some you may have never seen—or if you have, you may have forgotten.

Rockwell’s first cover, which you may not recall seeing unless you’re over 100 years old (and if you are, bless you for finding this on the computer), was the May 20, 1916, The Babysitter. A rather unhappy lad is pushing a baby carriage, while his buddies are off to play baseball. If they would just go play baseball, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad, but their “see ya, sucker” attitude is a bit much.

Knowledge is Power, October 27, 1917

Knowledge is Power, October 27, 1917

Knowledge Is Power! Another cover we don’t see that much shows us a teacher with a visitor to the classroom. From the look in the schoolmarm’s eyes, we can deduce that it is a very interesting visitor. Little Johnny has to stay late and write “Knowledge Is Power” on the blackboard a zillion times. The student seems to have a different view of that wise saying than the teacher intended.

We had nearly forgotten this one: From 1919 we see a man locking up the office, leaving a note on the door that says, “Gone on Important Business,” the imperative business being that it’s too nice a day to work. The motivational sign over his desk declaring “Do It Now” no doubt refers to playing golf.

Armor, November 3, 1962

Armor, November 3, 1962

Oh sure, you think, come up with covers from 80 or 90 years ago, but what about the ’50s and ’60s—I’ll remember those, smarty. OK, here’s one from 1962: Rockwell visited the John Woodman Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts (yep, that’s a mouthful), and you’ll need to click on it to see how extremely detailed this painting is. As sometimes happened, the Rockwell imagination went a little off-kilter. The guard taking a lunch break is strictly a Rockwell creation (that wasn’t in the museum), and you have to look very closely to see what else—this is the off-kilter part—the horse underneath that sumptuous armor is watching! OK, we’re not sure if this intrigues us or creeps us out.

Shuffletons Barbershop, April 29, 1950

Shuffleton's Barbershop, April 29, 1950

You probably remember Rockwell’s famous barbershop quartet cover, but few remember Shuffleton’s Barbershop from 1950. The charming old place, virtually unchanged from 1907, or so the editors informed us, is also highly detailed from the stove and coal bucket to the minutiae of design on the barber’s chair. But it’s the after-hours peek into the back room that draws us, as the real barber, Rob Shuffleton, trades his scissors and razor for a cello to make music with his buddies. Rockwell told the editors that Rob “is a tonsorial virtuoso who always trims his locks exactly the right length.”

<em>Christmas Homecoming</em>, December 25, 1948

Christmas Homecoming, December 25, 1948

But Rockwell was all about faces, and we would like for you to click on the Christmas 1948 cover: The faces are not only wonderful, they were important faces to Rockwell. They were friends, family, and neighbors. Rockwell liked the cute little pigtailed girl so much, he painted her twice—she was only “twins” on this cover. The lady enthusiastically hugging the young blond man is none other than Mrs. Rockwell, and the young man being welcomed so warmly is their son Jerry. Son Peter Rockwell is to the far left, and the young man in the plaid shirt is son Tommy. There are two famous artists in this cover, and you’ll probably recognize the one with the pipe as Rockwell himself. The delightful grandmother is none other than Rockwell friend, Grandma Moses. May all your homecomings be every bit as joyous.


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  • Robert

    Man I love that “Gone on Important Business.” My father is still doing the same thing today.

  • J Brower

    If you’re interested in talking first-hand with many of the people who posed for Rockwell’s Going and Coming, The Boy Scout, A Christmas Homecoming and many more who posed for Rockwell during his years in Arlington VT (1939-1953), then come to Arlington, VT on Saturday August 7th for the town’s annual Norman’s Attic craft fair. This year’s event includes a reunion of the models from the Arlington area, including Buddy Edgerton who just wrote a book on “The Unknown Rockwell”, Don Trachte, Clarence Decker III, Mary Imman Hall and many more. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime event, that’s for certain.

  • Carol Paterson

    Went to the wonderful NORMAN ROCKWELL Exhibit in Detroit at the art museum this summer. I saw some of these wonderful covers at the museum. What a talented man..

  • Bob McGowan

    Most of these selected covers I WAS not aware of, except for ‘The Babysitter’ . I knew it was Rockwell’s first POST cover from the May ’76 issue of the POST (which I still have!) celebrating the 60th anniversary of that first cover. My Dad turned 1 on 5/20/16.

    Interestingly enough, Rockwell’s last original POST cover was 5/25/63, the day before I turned 6; a beautiful portrait of Egypt’s President Nasser. People should know, too, that Mr. Rockwell did a lot more wonderful work between 1963 until he passed away in 1978. Much of it capturing the turbulent ’60s: from civil rights to hippies to the Moon Landing. Absolutely brilliant work, yet he was so humble and down to earth.

    Just pretending he were alive today, no doubt he’d be capturing the insane world of today with technology run amok with people texting while driving and the irony of everything moving faster yet not really making any progress, just more stress. Personally, I think the fact that the Captains on the Titanic could basically send and receive “text messages” in the middle of the Atlanic almost 100 years ago kind of puts today’s technology into the proper perspective—not impressive. Oh, and that little event called the Moon Landing 40 years ago? Sorry 21st Century, you’re off to a very sorry start indeed to NOT living in the 20th Century’s ever growing tall shadow.

    A cover of the POST in 1968 posed the question, “Are We Headed Toward the Day Everything Stops?” Well yeah, we kind of reached that era in the mid-90′s with the autos, movies, music and American culture in general feeding off itself with sad recycling, that we now live in an never-ending-present, very fast-paced with the lowest common deminator as its Gold Standard. Wondering about future decades? More of the same of course. Someday the ’60s will be almost a century ago, and I have no doubt they’ll still be recycled in some weird cyber-form in the 2050′s.