Dalmatian and Pups
Illustrator Stevan Dohanos visited his local firehouse in Westport, Connecticut, to get a permit for burning brush. There he met Patch the dalmatian and got an idea for a Post cover. Patch is only on the cover in spirit, however. Being a guy, he would have no ambivalence about staying with the kids; he would have just gone to the fire. The dog pictured in this cover was a pretty female at a Long Island kennel, complete with pups.
As to why dalmatians are associated with firefighters, there are many theories, most of which involve the dogs guiding the horses pulling the firewagons. Some say dalmatians in particular had a calming effect on horses, and others say their spotted coats were easy to see as the fire horses went thundering through the streets en route to the blaze (as in the cover below).
Racing to the Fire
Maurice Bower illustrated numerous subjects for ads, books, and at least a dozen magazines, but he had a way of conveying the raw power and energy of horses. Even when this cover was published in 1935, it was a glimpse of firefighting efforts in a bygone era. Motorized fire trucks were becoming common by 1910.
To the Rescue
From time to time, Norman Rockwell experimented with technique. This particular one was called “dynamic symmetry” and was supposed to be scientific, or some such newfangled notion to that effect. After this one, he did one more attempt using the same method and was disappointed with the results. He gave that painting to a cousin and reverted to his time-tested formulas, vowing never to stray again. Nonetheless, the cover does convey excitement and urgency.
Chasing the Fire Truck
This was a scene from little Johnny Falter’s Nebraska childhood, recreated in 1956 by grown-up artist John Falter—albeit with a more modern fire engine sure to save the barn.
As much as we love our illustrators, we sometimes find ourselves wondering what they were thinking when painting a cover. According to Post editors, three young “volunteer firefighters,” two on bike, and one on horseback, repeatedly careened downhill in their efforts to assist the artist, much to the astonishment of onlookers. All turned out well, and they made it to the imaginary fire in time.
Boy on Fire Truck
Behind the wheel of a bright red firetruck—a boy’s dream in 1953. During the ’40s and ’50s, Stevan Dohanos illustrated about 125 Post covers. Dohanos and Rockwell both depicted Americana; however, Dohanos was a ‘realist,’ unlike his friend, who tended to romanticize and idealize. Rockwell painted life as he would like it to be, whereas Dohanos “always gloried in finding the beauty in the ordinary things of life.”
It looks as if Dad wouldn’t mind a turn at the wheel himself.
Post cover reprints are available at Art.com.