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Classic Covers: The Theater

Old Folks at the Theater

Old Folks at the Theater by Watson Barratt from January 15, 1916


Old Folks at the Theater
by Watson Barratt
from January 15, 1916

Pops clearly thinks Vaudeville is a hoot in this 1916 cover, but the more puritanical Missus does not approve. This is the only Post cover by Watson Barratt, about whom little is known today.

It is interesting to note an article inside this issue on World War I by H.G. Wells and one of many stories the Post published by the delightful P.G. Wodehouse.


Charlie Chaplin Fans

Charlie Chaplin Fans by Norman Rockwell, from October 14, 1916.


Charlie Chaplin Fans
by Norman Rockwell
from October 14, 1916

Norman Rockwell was thrilled when he sold his first Post cover in 1916. “I used to sit in the studio with a copy of the Post laid across my knees,” Rockwell wrote in his autobiography. “’Must be 2 million people look at that cover,’ I’d say to myself. ‘At least. Probably more. Two million subscribers and then their wives, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, friends. Wow! All looking at my cover.’” Needless to say, his fantasy of himself as a famous illustrator came true in spades.

This cover was one of his finest of that era, with an already masterful use of light—in this case reflected from the flickering screen onto the delighted faces of the theatergoers.


Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Edgar Franklin Wittmack from March 26, 1927


Uncle Tom’s Cabin
by Edgar Franklin Wittmack
from March 26, 1927

Next to the Bible, Harriett Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was the best-selling book of the 19th century. Yes, it has long been decried for racial stereotypes, but Stowe made it clear that no Christian could condone slavery. This 1927 cover by Edgar Franklin Wittmack shows an Opera House featuring the play. We’re guessing the actor shown here was portraying the cruel slave owner whose name has become synonymous with greed and evil: Simon Legree. Artist Wittmack illustrated more than 20 Post covers.


Summer Stock

Summer Stock by Norman Rockwell from August 5, 1939


Summer Stock
by Norman Rockwell
from August 5, 1939

Norman Rockwell was full of surprises. On occasion, a Rockwell cover just doesn’t look “like a Rockwell.” Case in point is this 1939 illustration of a very pretty actress in full Elizabethan regalia. Contrast her elaborate costume with her stark “dressing room”—backstage at a barn, with an old crate serving as a dressing table. Her assistants? A couple of helpful barnyard residents.


Man Asleep in Theater

Man Asleep in Theater by Emery Clarke from July 27, 1940


Man Asleep in Theater
by Emery Clarke
from July 27, 1940

We laughed, we cried … we fell asleep. While the lovely lady with the hanky and the gentleman behind her appear to wipe away a tear, one moviegoer was moved … to nap. This 1940 cover was by Emery Clarke, who, while not a well-known artist, did half a dozen other Post covers.


Cousin Reginald is the Hero

Cousin Reginald is the Hero by Norman Rockwell from April 6, 1918


Cousin Reginald is the Hero
by Norman Rockwell
from April 6, 1918

In 1917-1919, Norman Rockwell painted a series of covers for Country Gentleman magazine, a sister publication to the Post. The characters he created were a group of often mischievous, if not downright ornery, country boys and their visiting city cousin, Reginald. Cousin Reginald was a geeky kid who was always bested by the kids’ rural activities: fishing, swimming, etc.

Rockwell must have finally tired of the tribulations he put Reginald through, for in this 1918 cover, cousin Reginald gets to be the hero. The cousins are in a rather clichéd school play, where the villain is throwing the poor maiden out for nonpayment of rent, when good old Reggie comes through with the deed to the house just in time! For more on these delightful covers see: “Norman Rockwell’s Cousin Reginald.”



Reprints of covers are available at Art.com.

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  • All really good selections. I love the look on both faces in ‘Old Folks at the Theater’. Mom’s clearly not pleased with whatever’s going on on stage.

    ‘Charlie Chaplin Fans’. I like and agree with your comments regarding the light. The angle gives the impression you’re looking at them from slightly below. I’ve also noticed the very large bows in girls’ hair on other covers from the ’10s. It’s one of those stand-out things exclusive to that time period, apparently.

    ‘Asleep at the Theater’ is another beautiful cover with an unusual angle.

  • Charles Neumann

    Very good covers. Nice to see some Rockwells that are not well known. Liked the man asleep in the theater, he seems to be having a good time.

  • Mary A. Berger

    Loved the cover of Old Folks at the Theater. Yep, Pops looks like he’s having more fun than a guy ought to have. Or maybe more fun than he’s EVER had, especially seeing the look on the Missus’ face. I’d say if he keeps grinning like that, he’s in trouble, big-time. Love these covers!