From San Francisco to Louisville to Pennsylvania, the beauty and grandeur of America’s bridges is on full display in these gorgeous covers.
In August of 1945, the city of San Francisco announced plans to dismantle its famous cable car system. The Post was in the thick of the uproar that followed. Mead Schaeffer’s September 29 cover helped “touch off an explosive burst of civic pride” that ultimately saved the cars, as writer Elmont Waite recounts in this article published five months later.
John Atherton painted his picture of the stern-wheeler at Louisville, Kentucky, where the Ohio rolls along on its way to join the Mississippi. Atherton enjoyed his stay in Louisville, but lost one of his illusions. A Vermonter, the artist went to Kentucky prepared to find that people there take things pretty easy. He had no sooner taken a preliminary squint at the river boat than a bustling Kentuckian took him in hand and arranged for the artist to work from a barge, which afforded a much better view. While relaxing at lunch, Atherton remarked that the job would take some little time, as he had to do a good deal of wandering up and down the river, in search of the proper site. A second energetic Kentuckian immediately put a car and driver at Atherton’s disposal, so the artist could cover more territory in less time. The motorized painter came back convinced that Kentucky is full of expediters.
John Atherton’s cover painting is a continuation of our family album of American regions. This time he moved north, to the Paul Bunyan country, and thousands will not need to be told that the cover is a view of the husky city of Duluth. This is the ship canal, through which ore boats move out to begin their travels in the Great Lakes. The ore, of course, comes from the great Mesabi Range. Atherton chose a moment when the bridge had lifted to let one of the ore boats pass below. The trip to Duluth is one the artist had hoped for many years to make; he remembered being there as a boy of six, when he was deeply impressed. Not by Duluth’s Bunyanesque role in American industry, however, but with its excellent facilities for sledding.
John Atherton’s cover painting is another page in our album of American localities; this time the scene is Spokane, and you are looking at the Monroe Street bridge, which is crossed overhead by a railroad bridge. Atherton lived in Spokane in his high-school days, and used to fish at the foot of these falls. In fact, when he needed a model for the fisherman, he dug out a photograph of himself at eighteen. It was the start of a lifelong devotion to fishing, not because Atherton himself had great luck in this river, but because he watched others haul out beautiful fish there—one rainbow trout that weighed nearly ten pounds. Atherton’s grandfather was an early settler and built a flour mill at the falls—the first in that region, Atherton believes.
A lazy summer day, a covered bridge, a crick or creek to play with, and a snake—how can one better define bliss? John Falter painted that bridge from life; its warning of “$5 fine for… smoking segars on” is an old rural Pennsylvaniaism, not a sample of the way the artist himself organizes words.
When John Falter was strolling along Belvedere Island, admiring the grace of Golden Gate Bridge across the azure bay, he happily discovered that kids still relaxed in the mellow old hair-raising way. Falter’s cliffside home was two blocks to the right of his painting.
Illustrator Ben Prins sat beside a drawbridge for three hours to watch it move, and it never moved a muscle, nothing wanting to go through but a gull. Finally, the kindly bridge tender, saying he’d better test the thing for shimmies anyway, waited till auto traffic was light and flapped it up and down for art’s sake. As no boats were visible, the motorists must have feared the man had gone on a bender.
To the left across the water: San Francisco, plus the New York Giants. The house is a lighthouse and the cables keep it from taking off for a sail someday. John Falter, who said he was something less than a superb sailor, had helped crew sailboats out through the Gate a few times, and usually had been delighted to regain dry land.
Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now