Classic Covers: How Labor Has Changed

You don’t often see a coachman these days, or a blacksmith. In honor of Labor Day, we invite you to think of other professions that have ceased to exist as you enjoy yesterday’s labors as shown on our covers.

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You don’t often see a coachman these days, or a blacksmith. In honor of Labor Day, we invite you to think of other professions that have ceased to exist as you enjoy yesterday’s labors as shown on our covers.

Coachman and Horse by J.F. Kernan

A Coachman pets his horse in the city street.
Coachman and Horse
J.F. Kernan
November 29, 1930

If you think I’ve been looking for an excuse to show off this beautiful cover, you’re absolutely right. The coachman and horse is one of my favorites (of course, my favorites change from week to week). Between the Post and sister publication, Country Gentleman, artist J.F. Kernan did over fifty covers.

Billboard Painters by Penrhyn Stanlaws

A painter illustrates a new, large billboard.
Norman Rockwell
March 9, 1935

There are several covers depicting billboard painters, and I’d forgotten about this one. It was by artist Penrhyn Stanlaws whose covers of elegant ladies, often in interesting hats, graced the Post many times. This particular lady just happens to be several times life size.

Partygoers by Norman Rockwell

An impatient milkman stops a couple before they leave for a party.
Norman Rockwell
March 9, 1935

The milkman started at the crack of dawn, so if you met him on your way home, you were a bona fide party animal. Note the hard-working deliverer of our morning milk is still carrying his flashlight. Rockwell depicted him as a fatherly type, admonishing the young couple for their unseemly hours.

Blacksmith by L.L. Emmert

A blacksmith hard at work.
L.L. Emmert
March 31, 1917

Since the Country Gentleman magazine folded in the 1970’s, a lot of cover art is all but forgotten. Today we’re remembering the blacksmith at his labors in 1917. What’s a horse to do these days – go to a shoe store?

Fill ‘er Up by McCauley Conner

A gas station attendant fills up his customer's gas tank.
Fill &rquot;er Up
McCauley Conner
April 3, 1937

I suppose remembering the days when someone pumped your gas makes you officially old, but it’s another job that’s gone by the wayside. I never thought the reason might be gas station attendants like this one, who got distracted by pretty ladies. This could get costly these days!

Soda Jerk by Norman Rockwell

A malt shop attendant chats with his female patrons.
Soda Jerk
Norman Rockwell
August 22, 1953

Yes, there were perks to being soda jerks – like girls. Norman Rockwell got the idea for this cover by listening to his youngest son talk about his experience behind the soda fountain. And, yes, Peter Rockwell was the model, although he wasn’t all that pleased with the resulting painting. “I’m not that goofy-looking,” he said. Well, dad had to give the guy some “character”. See if you can dream up any other extinct professions.

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  1. This is quite interesting, reading about how things used to be in the earlier days. I am fascinated by such things, mainly because the people i work for have a great passion for the 50’s and earlier era. I started working for them at a 50’s diner and relocated to their other business. I have been a Soda Jerk for over a year… and i very much love it. We haven’t disappeared, we’re just in smaller towns all over America… I happen to be in Indiana. at a place called the Chocolate Shop. 🙂 and i love it.

  2. I was a teacher for forty years . I have Norman Rockwell pictures from calendars that date way back. What wonderful pictures for children to write their stories about. My picture file I have kept even though retired now for almost twenty years. I am a painter also–certainly not in fame as Rockwell, but I feel he is still one of the very best of all times.

    Below is a verse I have under a water color that I painted of my mother reading the Saturday Evening Post when I was a teenager . I tried to copy it so you could see it but my computer would not copy that for some reason.

    Monthly Engrossment

    My mother was an avid reader.
    She’d read when she sat down to rest.
    She’d quilt, sew, sweep floors or cook all day.
    Come evening, she’d read her Bible with zest.
    Mom taught us girls how to play the piano.
    With feed sacks, she made us many a dress.
    When the Saturday Evening Post came each month,
    What she’d do first, we never had to guess.
    We knew she’d read it cover to cover,
    Even if the house was a mess.

    By Mary Lou Heckel

  3. Not to be a pedantic jerk, but please allow me to be a pedantic jerk. ^_^ Coachmen have not disappeared – they have evolved into chauffeurs. The billboard painter now glues billboard signs in place (or programs them onto digital billboards) and the gas station attendant is alive and well in New Jersey, where it is illegal for people to pump their own gas.

    Soda jerk seems to have completely disappeared though. But hopefully someone will be even more pedantic and correct me on this. ^_^


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