It was a brush with destiny. A young artist named Norman Rockwell had a dream: to do a Saturday Evening Post cover. To this end, he showed a painting of a lovely ballerina to his buddy, Clyde Forsythe. His friend’s reaction: “C-R-U-D! Terrible. Awful. Hopeless.” Apparently, Forsythe was not one to mince words. Then Forsythe picked up one of the illustrations Rockwell had done for Boys’ Life magazine. “Do that,” he said. Do what you’re best at—kids.”
Following his friend’s suggestion, Rockwell was over the moon when “Baby Carriage” appeared as his first Post cover in 1916. He was twenty-two. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that lasted a remarkable 47 years and over 300 covers.
Celebrating Norman’s 84th birthday in 1978, the Saturday Evening Post collected a variety of quotes from celebrities:
“A Norman Rockwell painting makes you feel happy and warm.” – Bob Hope
“When I was a boy, I used to deliver the Saturday Evening Post in our neighborhood on Long Island. With what joy and excitement I opened the bundles of magazines and studied each new Norman Rockwell cover. I’m so glad that the Post is honoring him on his 84th birthday and I would like to add my personal message to him, “Happy Birthday, Mr. Rockwell, all the way from the Aloha State.” – Jack Lord
“Norman Rockwell is timeless and without a doubt, universal. His warmth and humanity cover you like a winter quilt. Norman Rockwell celebrates life, and it is a wonderful feeling to help celebrate his.” – Henry Winkler
In 1978 a “new Post cover artist,” Gene Boyer, wished Norman Rockwell happy birthday in his own special way with this portrait.
“For his openness, his goodness and honesty and intelligence, the world thanks him and wishes him a great birthday. He is a great man. And would be embarrassed to be so called.” – Ronald Reagan
“Norman Rockwell is, I think, the most thoroughly American artist of all. Historians a thousand years from now will be able to learn a great deal of what life was like in the United States in the 20th century from studying the warm, human impressions by an artist who obviously loved his subjects.” – Steve Allen
“Norman Rockwell’s name has become synonymous with a whole age of innocence in America, and his great paintings evoke in all of us a nostalgia for a simpler and happier time.” – Walter Cronkite
“Norman Rockwell has always had a way of staying in touch with the feelings and hearts of the American people. In this time of constant hunting by the news fraternity for the provocative, the thoughts and moods and illustrations of Norman are most welcome and refreshing.” – John Wayne
“Norman Rockwell is America’s greatest, and I wish my home was full of everything he ever painted. Love, Lucy.” – Lucille Ball
“Some of us grew up thinking that Uncle Sam’s real name was Norman Rockwell; I still do.” – Paul Harvey
At right, Norman Rockwell works on a portrait of Egyptian President Nasser, which appeared as a Post cover on May 25, 1963. It was his last Post cover. He passed away in November 1978.