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Cover Gallery: Take Flight

Published: March 1, 2017

America has always been in love with the concept of flight. From the first bi-planes to futuristic bombers, these Post covers fly you through a short history of aviation.

Baby flying a biplane

Baby New Year Flying Bi-Plane
By J.C. Leyendecker
January 1, 1910

J. C. Leyendecker painted numerous “Baby New Year” covers, which often narrated the issue of the day:  The 1910 baby flew a new-fangled bi-plane. The 1912 baby carried a “Votes for Women” sign. And 1914’s tot cruised the soon-to-be-opened Panama Canal. The worried face of our bi-plane baby reflects the trepidation many had about this brand-new mode of travel.


WWI biplanes in mid-dog fight

World War I Dogfight
Henry J. Soulen
July 21, 1917

This dramatic aerial scene from a World War I dogfight depicts the moment of victory. Air combat was extremely rare at the beginning of the first world war. Although there was some tactical use of planes during the war, they were mostly used for reconnaissance. Over the course of the war, air battles evolved from grenades to handheld firearms, and eventually machine guns. The victorious plane has a pusher configuration, where the propeller is located behind the pilots. This solved the problem of the propeller interfering with the gunner’s line of sight.


Portrait of a woman aviator

Woman Pilot
Neysa McMein
August 11, 1917

Neysa McMein got her start as an illustrator during World War I, travelling across France with Dorothy Parker to entertain the troops. She is known for creating the “Betty Crocker” image for General Mills, but this cover, as well as her inclusion in the Algonquin Roundtable, suggests a life that was perhaps more progressive than the fictional Mrs. Crocker’s.


Male angel with wings and arms stretched out, in celebration of an aircraft in flight

The Spirit of Aviation
Edgar Franklin Wittmack
May 12, 1928

Edgar Franklin Wittmack was one of the top magazine cover illustrators from the 1920s to the 1940s, whose resume would include 22 Post covers. Wittmack’s covers often featured manly men — cowboys, mariners, Mounties, and movie stars —striking a jaunty pose for the portraitist. This ethereal, deco-style illustration was somewhat of a departure from his other Post covers.

A woman on an airplane looking eagerly out her passenger window

First Flight
Norman Rockwell
June 4, 1938

Although this Rockwell illustration doesn’t feature a plane’s exterior, we couldn’t help but include this charmer. This eager first-time traveler gazes out the window, the route painstakingly traced out on her “Fly the Skyways” map. The rich narrative quality of the scene is the hallmark of Rockwell’s most compelling images.

A passenger aircraft in flight above water at night

Night Flight
By Josef Kotula
February 4, 1939

This dramatic night scene is the only cover Josef Kotula painted for the Post. Kotula was known for his futuristic aviation and spaceship illustrations.


A Northwester American Indian totem pole, with an airplane formation behind it.

Totem Pole
John Clymer
January 31, 1942

The U.S. had just entered World War II, and Clymer dramatically illustrated America’s commitment to protecting its Pacific shores. Both warships and planes glide across the dramatic backdrop of the Alaskan frontier, as the totem pole stands guard in the foreground, ever vigilant for invaders.


A cowboy with saddle standing in front of a grounded aircraft

Flying Cowboy
Mead Shaeffer
May 17, 1947

“The cowboy carrying his pet saddle to his plane is an everyday sight in the West,” artist Mead Schaeffer wrote when he delivered this painting. “Many a rancher lives in town and commutes to his ranch or ranches by air. The tableland makes landing fields all through the West, and because of the long distances involved, the West takes to planes the way the East take to cars. Many a business engagement, even luncheon engagements, are kept this way.” One of the flying ranchers, Lee Bivins, was Schaeffer’s model. The background is the airport at Amarillo, Texas.


American aircraft raid Moscow at dawn. A jet in the foreground is blasted out of the sky by anti-aircraft fire

Robert McCall
October 13, 1962

This cover by Robert McCall accompanied a serialization of the book Fail-Safe, which described what might happen if a communications breakdown should cause nuclear-armed bombers to fly past their point of recall. The illustration depicts American bombers approaching Moscow, which is more obvious when one sees the two-page fold-out cover in its entirety. The Post editors wrote, “Accidental warfare is a valid subject for consideration in these cold-war days, and we would do well to keep in mind the grave problems facing the President—and all of us—in keeping the peace.”

American aircraft raid Moscow at dawn. A jet in the foreground is blasted out of the sky by anti-aircraft fire

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