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Classic Art: Great Illustrators from Past Issues

Published: September 16, 2011

Although The Saturday Evening Post is famous for its covers, some of the most striking art has been hidden inside the magazine.

“Squaw Fever,” art by Paul Rabut

Squaw Fever by Paul Rabut From April 26, 1947

“Squaw Fever”
by Paul Rabut
From April 26, 1947

This dramatic painting by Paul Rabut appeared in the 1947 story “Squaw Fever” by Bill Gulick. The caption reads: “All you got to do is put wings on your wagons an’ fly ’em into the valley. Ain’t that right, captain?” Illustrations like this make us wonder where the original paintings ended up.

“Love and Alexander Botts,” art by Hy Rubin

Love and Alexander Botts by from March 14, 1953

“Love and Alexander Botts”
by William Hazlett Upson
From March 14, 1953

“Only desperate measures, he saw, could keep this girl from marrying the wrong man. It was a challenge the greatest of salesmen couldn’t resist.”

I don’t remember the Alexander Botts stories in the Post, but I’ve heard from many readers who do. The hardworking salesman for the Earthworm Tractor Company was created by William Hazlett Upson, and readers couldn’t wait for his next adventure. This 1953 Hy Rubin illustration is captioned: “‘For every problem there is always a solution,’ (Botts) said. ‘I will start now looking for it.’”

It would be a bit irritating to have a boss that darned cheerful while one is nursing a broken heart, but that’s Botts for you.

“The Cold-War Blonde,” art by Robert G. Harris

The Cold War Blonde by Robert G. Harris bore from September 26, 1959

“The Cold-War Blonde”
by Robert G. Harris bore
From September 26, 1959

It’s never good when there’s a Cold War raging, you’re rifling through a desk, and you get caught by the Russians–as this unfortunate young lady from the 1959 story “The Cold-War Blonde” by George Fielding Eliot did.

“She risked her honor for her country, and her methods were most unusual…” Whatever that means. The luscious artwork by Robert G. Harris bore the caption: “On the other side of the desk, ready to vault over it, crouched Zaspurov.” Can’t get anything by a danged Commie.

“Escapade,” art by Gilbert Bundy

Escapade from April 30, 1949

by Gilbert Bundy
From April 30, 1949

“Gary walked onto the terrace just as she got near the bottom. He could see she was pretty in the face too.”

Too? Apparently she was pretty from, er, other angles. How did people get themselves into these situations? Something about … she threw a boot at the house detective and it went over the terrace … or something. She is rather brazen, as we’ll see below.

“Escapade,” art by Gilbert Bundy

Escapade 2 from April 30, 1949

by Gilbert Bundy
From April 30, 1949

“He was trapped in his fiancee’s apartment with a strange girl wearing his fiancee’s gown. Could you talk your way out of that?”

Well, I’d love to hear him try. It seems the young lady made herself at home. “I hope you’ll forgive me. I know I had a nerve, but I just couldn’t resist this,” reads the caption of her trying on the gown. Uh, yeah, nervy would be one word for you, toots.

Beware of young ladies who climb over your terrace. This was from a 1949 story called “Escapade” by George Marion Jr.

“Stolen Goods,” art by Perry Peterson

Stolen Goods by Perry Peterson from June 11, 1949

“Stolen Goods”
by Perry Peterson
From June 11, 1949

“She stared into the ladies’ dressing room and tried not to faint. It was terrifying to find a man in there—especially when he was dead.”

If three-way mirrors aren’t enough to put you off clothes shopping, this should do it. This is from a 1949 serial called “Stolen Goods” by Clarence Budington Kelland. The artwork was by Perry Peterson.

More inside illustrations to come!

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  • Gary:

    I sifted through a few dozen stories H.J. Mowat illustrated for the Post, but found none with the title “Backstage”. That could have been an original title that changed by the time it went to press. I don’t have a way to do an image search, but if you have another title possibility, I’ll be glad to search again.


  • G. Gary Moyer

    In what issue (month/day/year) did the Saturday Evening Post publish the illustration, Backstage, by Harold James Mowat?

  • Bill Van Wie

    Very nice, My grandfather did alot of the art work for SEP, his name is Hy Rubin I also have alot of his original oil paintings and misc.other originals but I dont.know how to find A value for them

  • Diana Denny

    Responding to Joni’s question above:
    We’re probably talking a needle in a haystack here. I have found that these illustrators have done hundreds, if not thousands of illustrations for books, magazines, ads, etc. Sewell did a large number of story illustrations for the Post alone. My best advice is to Google Sewell and follow up any lead you get that way. Also, I would enter him in a book search on Amazon.com on the off chance some old book with that illustration will come up. If there’s anything written on the back of the painting that could be a story title or other clue, that might help too!
    Good Luck! – Diana Denny, Archives

  • joni schneider

    I have a painting by Amos Sewell that appears to be a “pre-illustration” for either a book or magazine cover. It is of a young woman who is looking back as though she is afraid and being followed. In addition, there is a rather prominent green man’s face in the piece. The top and bottom are left empty as though the writing would be placed in that white areas. Any ideas would be helpful

  • Andrew R. VanSickle

    I would like to read some of the stories that these works illustrated. Can you tell me how to obtain them ?

  • lisa hennesy

    i am so excited to find more illustrations by my husband grandfather Joseph Hennesy. Jeff tells me stories of watching him paint in his art studio as a kid.. then to see all this works later on is amazing. recently my brother in laws house burnt down and some of the grandpops paintings were destroyed. Im grateful for what i have been able to find and if anyone comes across more Joe Hennesy (Phoenixville PA) illustrations, i would LOVE to get link information on them.. cheers. [email protected]

  • Diana Denny

    James, in regards to your question: The February 1, 1930 cover was of flamingo dancers and the June 7, 1930 cover was of a soldier walking arm in arm with a lady in a yellow hat and dress. Both covers were by artist McClelland Barclay and I’ll e-mail you the images. – Diana Denny, Post Archives

  • james boyle

    I love the past covers of the POST. Does anyone know what of the cover
    for FEB 1. 1930 issue looks like. I have been trying to find it and the one
    for June 7, 1930. Any help out there? Thanks.

  • Bob McGowan

    Diana, you’ve picked out some more wonderful examples of great artwork inside vintage issues of the POST. I don’t envy you having to whittle down your selections to just 5 or 6 when there are SO many to choose from! I’m glad there are more inside illustrations to come in future POST e-mails.

    From this week’s selection, I’m going to have to go with the ‘Cold War Blonde’ as my favorite, even though all are great. It’s interesting to notice the time difference between this illustration and the Alexander Botts from 6 years earlier. They both look ’50s (and are), but the latter definitely seems older. You wouldn’t see such a difference between 2003 and 2009 at all.

  • Charles Neumann

    Interesting to see story art. Some were very good, especially the western drawing. The Post had alot of stories about some very interesting and pretty young women.

  • James (Jim) Kelly

    The SEP had great art work and great articles. That tradition is continuing.

    I particularly like repeats of Norman Rockwell. He wasis one-of-a-kind.