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Crowd-sourced: Norman Rockwell’s Christmas at Chicago Union Station

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Crowd of people at a train station during Christmas

Homecoming: In this cover from December 23, 1944, Rockwell blends the chaos of Christmas shopping with the joy of families greeting returning WWII servicemen. (© SEPS)

Union Train Station, Chicago, Christmas contains many of Norman Rockwell’s favorite themes — homecoming, reunions, sweethearts, and Christmas — and he wanted to get it just right.

In the planning phase, Rockwell scouted several train locales before choosing the Chicago and Northwestern railroad station. Always concerned with accuracy, the artist asked railroad officials how they planned to decorate for the holidays. They hadn’t decided yet, as Christmas was months away, so they told Rockwell to paint it as he wished and they’d decorate the station to match.

Among the shoppers, you’ll notice some servicemen in the crowd waiting to be reunited with their families. After photographing real servicemen for these scenes, Rockwell recruited women to pose kissing some of the soldiers. The red-haired woman in the foreground kissing an officer was discovered as she hurried through the station. Afterward, when Rockwell thanked her for posing for the kiss, she replied, “Not at all; sorry it wasn’t a time exposure.” Look closely and you’ll see Rockwell himself in the picture; he’s the man waving a folded paper in the upper right.

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