Ardis Edgerton was the typical tomboy; she climbed trees, had skinned knees and torn dresses, and had a huge mass of red hair that was the exasperation of her mother and herself. It was that hair that Norman Rockwell appreciated; especially the bright red color. When Rockwell painted this May 26, 1945, cover, Homecoming G.I., Ardis was at its center, but the painter didn’t stop there. He also turned every one of the central characters into redheads.
Ardis is the girl leaning on the rail (next to the mom with outstretched arms). The little girl behind her, Yvonne Cross, was a blonde in real life, just like her brother John who plays the returning soldier, and her father who is repairing the roof overhead. Even Ardis’ black and white dog Spot is chromatically transformed for the picture.
Rockwell’s inspiration for this scene came from a series of Post articles from 1944 by Sgt. Charles E. “Commando” Kelly in which he describes winning the Medal of Honor in Italy—with a special emphasis on how much he yearned for home.
Rockwell had used a homecoming theme for several covers, but this one was selected as the U.S. Treasury’s official poster for their eighth and final war bond drive. On January 3, 1946, at the end of the war bond campaign, $187.7 billion had been raised, and over half of America’s citizens, more than 85 million people, had bought bonds to support the war. Rockwell and the Post were proud to have been a part of that.
This illustration, one of Rockwell’s better-known covers, can’t fail to evoke a sense memory common to all of us. Who can fail to be moved by a soldier’s homecoming to family, to friends, and possibly to a red-headed girl quietly standing to the side?