Classic Art: Story Illustrations, Part 1

Our artists did more than magazine covers. Some of the most interesting art was inside the magazine—for story illustrations.

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By Harold Von Schmidt

by Harold Von Schmidt from May 10, 1947
By Harold Von Schmidt from May 10, 1947

“The word that she was to have a new boss—name of Bullwinkle—almost drove Tugboat Annie crazy. And as someone said: ‘When Annie acts crazy, somebody’d better start ducking!’” Yes, that unsinkable character Tugboat Annie began in The Saturday Evening Post. This illustration by Harold Von Schmidt leads to the question: whatever happened to these great paintings? But that’s another story. The caption reads: “‘Hey, Bullwinkle, ye wind-geared jackass!’ was Annie’s unladylike greeting. ‘Whyn’t ye get out an’ push?’” Gotta love her.

By Sam Bates

by Sam Bates from July 19, 1954
By Sam Bates from July 19, 1954

I wish I could count all the western stories that appeared in the Post over the years. This was “Gunslick” by Richard Wormser from 1954. The caption to artist Sam Bates’ illustration reads “Jack Gannon brought his hand too close to his gun, and Mel’s own iron was out and pointing. ‘You were saying, Mr. Gannon?’”

By Bob Hilbert

 by Bob Hilbert from February 21, 1953
By Bob Hilbert from February 21, 1953

Sometimes I don’t know if it’s the artwork or the captions that grab me. The story is “Larcenous Lady” by William Fay from 1953 and the caption to the sexy illustration by artist Bob Hilbert says, “When he kissed her gently, she clung to him, murmured his name. He didn’t know she was also picking his pocket.” For more steamy images from romance fiction, see our Featured Artist piece on “Leading Ladies.” I’ll do more of these in the future.

By Amos Sewell

 by Amos Sewell  from January 31, 1951
By Amos Sewell from January 31, 1951

I have to show two illustrations from the 1953 story “The Dangerous Angel” by Clarence Budington Kelland. This lovely illustration has the caption: “‘Madam,’ said the young man, ‘nothing could make you more conspicuous than God and nature already have done.’” Oh, brother. As pick-up lines go, that one stinks. And… did he throw his jacket down for her?

By Amos Sewell

by Amos Sewell from January 31, 1953
By Amos Sewell from January 31, 1953

The artwork here and above from “The Dangerous Angel” was by Post cover artist Amos Sewell. His covers tended to be a bit more wholesome. This caption reports, “Hephzibah said, ‘A woman that’s built like you be is sure to come to a bad end.’”

By James Bingham

by James Bingham from September 26, 1959
By James Bingham from September 26, 1959

Yes, boys and girls, the decades of the 1940s through ’60s brought many a Perry Mason story to Saturday Evening Post readers. This 1959 Erle Stanley Gardner serial was “The Case of The Waylaid Wolf.” Perry, at least according to the caption, is losing patience: “Mason came bolt upright. ‘Wait a minute!’ he snapped. ‘Try and remember just what he said about O.K.’”

More story illustrations coming up soon.

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  1. I just bought a Gwen Wirth painting. It is lovely! It deserves a good home and I’d like it to be with a relative of hers.

  2. Hi I’m looking for any artwork by Gwen Wirth. Do you know of her work for the Post? I believe she did work in the twenties for them, maybe early thirties. trying to locate pictures because we are related.

  3. I love all the selections this week Diana, but ‘Larcenous Lady’ has to be my favorite. I LOVE the inside story illustrations by the likes of Bob Hilbert (as seen here). They’re sexy, but mostly just gorgeous artwork that exemplifies the look and desire for perfection in America at mid-century. These illustrations deliver that, and more.

  4. These are wonderful. I had forgotten how I looked forward to the The Saturday Evening Post when growning up.


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