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Mid-Century Illustrations: Dramatic Doctors and Nurses

Published: April 4, 2018

A pulpy medical story deserves an equally expressive illustration. These images from short fiction that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in the 1940s and ’50s show doctors and nurses in the throes of passion…or is it indigestion?

Illustration

“I love you so, and yet this war — Would you be willing to marry me and be a war widow?”
From “Death in the Doll’s House” by Hannah Lees and Lawrence P. Bachman
February 27, 1943

 

Cover

Navy Nurse
Jon Whitcomb
October 23, 1943

 

Illustration

“If he operated, she might live. If he didn’t, she’d probably die. He had to risk his career— or her life.”
From “Doctor’s Choice” by Jean Littlejohn Aaberg
August 14, 1948

 

Illustration

“Should a doctor tell his patient the truth—even if it means telling him he’s going to die?”
From “Tomorrow Never Comes” by Frank O’Rourke
January 1, 1949

 

Illustration

“How long can a handsome doctor last in a hospital full of adoring women—before he gets hooked?”
From “Even Doctors Are Human” by Maxine Lane
April 3, 1954

 

Illustration

“He didn’t even know his own wife. What had the Reds done to him?”
From “Brainwashed Pilot” by Sidney Herschel Small
March 19, 1955

 

Illustration

“To thaw this chilly blonde, the scientist dreamed up a special formula.”
From “Love Gas” by Jacob Hay
July 25, 1959

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  • Louis Hirsch

    I enjoy getting the SEP. Never mind that I have entered the limerick contests without so much as an honorable mention!

    The SEP is an island of safety for my mind in these times when things seem so out of sync. Great nostalgia for me who, as a child, delivered the Post door to door in my neighborhood. That in an era when it was safe for a seven year old to walk the streets of San Francisco alone.

    The Rockwell and other covers stir up memories of:

    * Collecting fat in cans for the “war effort”. What in the world was it used for?
    * Saturdays at the movies for a double feature, a newsreel and a cartoon.
    * Eating new things — like liver — because of food rationing.
    * Blacked out windows and under desk school drills.
    * The milkman delivering milk in bottles always coming with cream separated on the top.
    * Women with upswept hair in broad shouldered dresses, looking elegant a la Joan Crawford and my personal favorite Ann Sheridan.

    So much more.

    The Post is as topical today as it was back in the 40s. In a gentler way than many a periodical. Thanks for that.

    An eternal optimist, I do believe that one day it will be my turn to be King of the Limerick.

  • I enjoy your magazine and emails. How about reviewing Norman Rockwell’s covers and any inside mag work he did?

  • Even MORE great Post artwork from the mid-1900’s! If this isn’t at least a partial antidote to life in 2018, than I don’t know what is. The top illustration with basic colors and shading draws you in, not to mention the subject’s pose and facial expressions.

    ‘Navy Nurse’ by Jon Whitcomb is one of the best Post covers ever. I may detest smoking and cigarettes, but must forgive the gorgeous nurse here—100%! The ’48 illustration makes you want to read the story, same as the ’49 with the man in the brown suit. What is he thinking? The subdued colors add to the mystery.

    At least two nurses (’54) have a major crush on this doctor. How much of a distraction will they become? The ’55 illustration shows PTSD before there was help for it, had a name or was even acknowledged. Just what is the ‘Love Gas’ in the beautiful ’59 illustration at the bottom? Is she safe in that laboratory with this doctor/scientist, and what kind of potions are in those bottles?