Rockwell Files: On the Road Again (Solitaire)

In Solitaire, Rockwell strikes a balance between empathy for the traveling salesman and admiration for his unsung heroism.

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In 1950, Norman Rockwell paid tribute to that unsung hero of American commerce, the traveling salesman. Long before sales meetings could be held on Zoom, these road warriors were the front lines of the wholesale industry. They traveled the country, confronted with heavy traffic, stubborn customers, and cheap accommodations, like the rented room in which we find this commercial crusader. In his tiny room, the salesman has been allotted two meager towels for his trip down the hall to the communal bathroom. The room has no closet; he must drape his coat and loud tie over a chair and hangs his pants from a dresser drawer in hopes of removing some of its wrinkles. Now in bed with, we hope, an unlit cigar, he cocks an appraising eye at the next card, deciding whether to play it in the game of solitaire he’s got going on his suitcase or to reach for the fly swatter

This article is featured in the July/August 2022 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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  1. The company I worked for years ago had a lot of salespeople who traveled to small towns in Kansas, I thought of this Rockwell cover when I thought of them.

  2. Since we don’t see any smoke, I’m figuring the cigar is unlit. The flies are definitely flying under the dangling lamp, I’m sure irritating him. The tie is VERY loud, and the wallpaper and carpeting are definitely ‘bordello red’. I’d like to see his car, Jeff. I’ll bet you it’s one of those 40’s business coupes with the really huge trunk. Love that body style!


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