Rockwell Files: Tooth Dismay?

All I want for Christmas: Rockwell captures a critical moment in a young girl’s life.

Girl showing her missing teeth to her friends

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In 1955, Proctor & Gamble introduced a new toothpaste, Crest with Fluoristan, and an advertising slogan that became popular: “Look mom, no cavities.”

The manufacturer asked Rockwell to paint beaming young people flashing their healthy teeth and holding up glowing reports from their dentists. One morning, while working on the campaign, little Anne Morgan showed up to pose for him. It was readily apparent that she was missing two vital assets: her front teeth. While adding them to the final image, he got the idea for a Post cover.

Girl showing her missing teeth to her friends
(Norman Rockwell / © SEPS)

Childhood was a common theme of Rockwell’s works. And when he painted girls, he liked to show them as they were, not as adults expected them to be. And he would often picture them at turning points in their lives — in this case, the moment she announces to her friend the loss of her baby teeth.

Originally Rockwell considered using an adult for the girl’s audience, but his final choice works better. While one girl shows a natural curiosity, the other stands aloof; readers had to decide the cause of her reluctance. Perhaps she hadn’t lost any baby teeth yet.

This article is featured in the May/June 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: Norman Rockwell / © SEPS

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