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Classic Covers: Presidents

Published: February 19, 2011

At the time The Saturday Evening Post described him as, “the heaviest President, the most traveled President, the best-natured President and the first golf player to occupy the White House.”

First Cabinet Meeting by George Gibbs

First Cabinet Meeting by George Gibbs

First Cabinet MeetingGeorge GibbsFebruary 15, 1902

One could argue that the Post was around when Washington took the oath of office, if one wanted to stretch the point. At that time it was Ben Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette, which became known as The Saturday Evening Post in 1821. This 1902 cover came at a turbulent time: McKinley had been shot and killed a few months before and Teddy Roosevelt was president. An article about Presidents and how they construct their cabinets was the inspiration for the cover.

Teddy Roosevelt by Edward Penfield

Teddy Roosevelt by Edward Penfield

Teddy RooseveltEdward PenfieldMarch 4, 1905

He came to the President’s office under the worst of circumstances: the assassination of his predecessor, William McKinley. It was said by some that he was an “accidental President,” but the Post noted in the March 1905 issue that this time around Teddy was “chosen President…by the largest majority that the history of our country records. In the first case the President stood face to face with a great doubt; to-day he stands face to face with a great belief. In the homely and pithy words of a distinguished man, President Angell, of Ann Arbor, ‘the folks want him’.”

President Taft by– J.C. Leyendecker

President Taft by JC Leyendecker

President TaftJC LeyendeckerMarch 6, 1909

Cover artist J.C. Leyendecker painted a fine portrait of President William Howard Taft that appeared on the March 6, 1909 cover. Corpulent and cheerful, the new president held a silk top hat. There have been only twenty-six chief executives, said the Post of this exclusive office, and “the Presidential chair has just been enlarged and specially reinforced for the twenty-seventh, who was seated in it this week.” The Post article described Taft as “the heaviest President, the most traveled President, the best-natured President and the first golf player to occupy the White House. He is a three-hundred-pounder with a built-in smile. When Mr. Roosevelt took him though the White House and showed him how the furnace draws best and how to keep the window in the Red Room from rattling, it was a labor of love, for the two are chums. It was the first time a President had bequeathed a close, personal friend to the country as his successor.”

Eisenhower by Norman Rockwell

Eisenhower by Norman Rockwell

EisenhowerNorman RockwellOctober 11, 1952

“I honestly think he has the most expressive face I’ve ever painted,” Norman Rockwell said of General (not yet president) Dwight Eisenhower. Rockwell put the general through his paces: “Could you act as if you’re whipping out a command?” he would ask. Eisenhower barked, “Forward HARCH!” (I wish I could have been a fly on the wall). “Now laugh,” the artist requested, and Ike did so. And so on through 47 sketches. Rockwell, as we all know, was a stickler for details. The final October 11, 1952 cover was of a friendly, smiling Eisenhower. What Rockwell remembered most was a pleasurable hour and a half discussing painting (Ike also painted) and fishing. You would never know the general was in Denver for a political convention, readying for a grueling presidential campaign.

Richard Nixon by Norman Rockwell

Richard Nixon by Norman Rockwell

Richard NixonNorman RockwellNovember 5, 1960

As he did with Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson in 1952, Norman Rockwell painted presidential contenders Nixon and Kennedy for the Post in 1960. Rockwell actually painted Nixon six times and after one of the later sittings he noted that Nixon looked basically the same. “Oh, he’s older, sure. Aren’t we all?” The challenge was that Nixon nose. “It’s hell to paint and to keep it from dominating too much.” But the artist added that when “Nixon smiled, he was just about as warm and friendly as the father of two pretty daughters could be.”

John F. Kennedy by Norman Rockwell

John F. Kennedy by Norman Rockwell

John F. KennedyNorman RockwellOctober 29, 1960

It was a little-known Senator John Kennedy that the Post assigned Rockwell to paint in the summer of 1960. When the artist arrived at the Hyannisport compound, Kennedy, still in pajamas, called out to Rockwell to make himself comfortable. “The pajamas were rumpled, but he was wonderful,” the artist noted. Now here’s an odd request of an artist: Kennedy asked Rockwell to make him look at least his age (43). If you’re too young to remember 1960, it was a very big deal that someone so young was running for President. It was a devastated Rockwell that allowed this painting to run again on the Post in December 1963 in Kennedy’s memory. Although Rockwell had painted Kennedy later, it was said the President admired this portrait of him as a presidential candidate.

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  • These are all great Presidential covers Diana. It’s interesting too to note how the logo was tweaked between 1900-1903, with the final refinement in late 1903 being used to this day with a mid-century hiatus from 1942-1969.

    As to Vanessa Scott’s question, I have that edition as well. As to it’s value, it’s an incredible historical issue that has a lot of sentimental value to me. Monetary is not something I’ve ever thought about, or wouldn’t. But figuring that’s what she’s referring to, I would think a lot would have to do with the condition her particular copy of this issue is in. Being the unusual historical issue it is, I would think (in general) it would/should be worth more typically than most other issues from the same time period.

  • vanessa scott

    I have the 1963 Saturday Evening Post addition of the assasination of John F. Kennedy. Just wondering if it is of any value.

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