Classic Covers: The Grocery Store

Remember turning in pop bottles for change? How about having a few cents for candy and taking forever to decide? These Post covers remind us how much shopping has changed.

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Remember turning in pop bottles for change? How about having a few cents for candy and taking forever to decide? These Post covers remind us how much shopping has changed.

Lunchtime at the Grocery by Albert W. Hampson

Lunchtime at the Grocery by Albert W. Hampson from August 31, 1940
Lunchtime at the Grocery
from August 31, 1940

The grocery cart was only a 3-year-old invention when this 1940 Post cover was painted. Invented in 1937, the “double basket” didn’t immediately catch on. People were used to carrying a woven basket, but to some women the cart seemed a bit much. Older people were afraid they’d appear feeble and men wanted to appear manly, as if handling a few groceries were no big deal. The inventor of the cart, Sylvan Goldman, finally hired models of all ages and both sexes to use the carts while shopping. It caught on enough by 1940, that a Saturday Evening Post cover featured the now ubiquitous baskets on wheels.

Thoughtful Shopper by Norman Rockwell

Thoughtful Shopper from May 3, 1924 by Norman Rockwell
Thoughtful Shopper
May 3, 1924

Before the days of the shopping cart, grocers went around the store fetching items according to your list. According to Norman Rockwell’s 1924 cover, sometimes they had to do so much more. The gentleman in this painting was J. L. Malone, who appeared in at least one other Rockwell cover. The artist appreciated Malone’s reading voice and the model sometimes read aloud for hours while Rockwell worked on an illustration such as this. The usual fare? Classic Dickens.

Penny Candy by Frances Tipton Hunter

Penny Candy from August 19, 1939
Penny Candy
August 19, 1939

No one promised the grocer an exciting career. Even the dog has fallen asleep while the children try to decide which candy to get. In 1939, a penny was a lot to a little kid. For more covers by Frances Tipton Hunter — guaranteed sweeter than penny candy — see The Art of Frances Tipton Hunter.

Grocery Line by Stevan Dohanos

Grocery Line from November 13,1948 by Steven Dohanos
Grocery Line
November 13,1948

As sure as you just want to pay a bite to eat and get on with your day, a slow-moving line looms ahead. Artist Stevan Dohanos had everything he needed in this painting except for just the right guy to portray the stalled shopper. To heck with it; the artist just went ahead with his summer vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. There he spotted a fellow vacationer in shorts and a fishing hat, yelled, “Hey, wait!” and proceeded to explain his Saturday Evening Post cover predicament. Sure, I’ll pose, the stranger said, and headed home to put on his city clothes. The man, H.R. Knickerbocker, was already known as an illustrious war correspondent, but now he was immortalized on a Post cover. The shopping carts are unique, quite different from the below cover from three years later.

More Money, Honey by George Hughes

More Money, Honey by George Hughes from July 21, 1951
More Money, Honey
July 21, 1951

This 1951 cover with the sleek metal cart looks more like today’s groceries, except perhaps for the milk bottles and the gentleman’s fedora. Oh, and the fact that she’s using a strange thing called cash rather than a credit or debit card.

Babies and Bananas by Stevan Dohanos

 Babies and Bananas from April 5, 1952
Babies and Bananas
April 5, 1952

This is not an example of how a grocery store operates these days, but this 1952 cover is a fine example of why artist Stevan Dohanos is a Post favorite. Dohanos had done some farm scene murals for the grocery store and decided to use the actual grocer in a painting destined for The Saturday Evening Post. The artist just happened to have a cute baby to use for the cover — his own little tyke, Tony.

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  1. In the August 19 1939 edition there was a cover notice of a story written by Rex Stout, “Double for Death”. I believe he wrote many for the Post. Could you reissue some of them for the collectors of his work?

  2. Very funny and well drawn covers concerning grocery stores. Thanks for sharing.


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