See all Post Artists Videos.
Featured image: George Hughes / SEPS
Christmas is a season outside of time. Each holiday is new and fresh while at the same time connecting u to every other Christmas we’ve ever known. So each holiday season brings with it not just joyful moments but a generous helping of the past.
Christmas planning can be a joy, but it often veers towards comedy. In the hands of Post cover artists, the experience is presented in equal parts delight, misery, and silliness.
If the windup to Christmas is hectic and exhausting, John Falter’s cover reminds us what an amazing spectacle the holiday is to children. In their cautious, pajama’d descent down the staircase at first light, one can almost feel their joy that, after weeks of longing and anticipation, the magical day has finally arrived.
This article is featured in the November/December 2019 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
Featured image and artwork: SEPS.
An old Jewish proverb says that God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers. And mothers do have certain godlike qualities. Not only do they give us life, but they are our counselors, confidantes, protectors, disciplinarians, and teachers. But for all their love and sacrifice, moms seldom get the recognition they deserve. In this gallery, the Post commemorates the fun — and just as frequently the frustration — that motherhood entails.
Never a Dull Moment
First date. An awkward and exhilarating rite of passage in a teen’s — and mother’s — life. Time stands still for the starry-eyed daughter (above) who can’t wait till dawn to riff about her big night out. Time also seems to come to a halt in the run-up to the big Gold and Green Dance (below). Can a boy survive his mom’s ministrations?
The doctor will see you now. A waiting room full of distractions keeps anxiety in check for some young patients and their moms, but clearly not for all.
Behind the Scenes
Cooking up something sweet. A special surprise lurks behind the kitchen door courtesy of a culinary crew only a mom could love.
Morning glory. With the brood now safely off to school, this mom finally gets to kick back for some well-deserved “me time.”
It’s the Thought That Counts
What to buy? 1940s-era stereotypes about the limits of a mother’s desires seem to have narrowed a daughter’s options.
Good news, bad news. Wet, muddy, and full of enthusiasm, a boy and his dog announce a “special delivery”.
Other magazines are hitting the stands with their annual swimsuit issue, so we thought we’d offer our own take on it with these bathing costumes dating back to 1910.
The model for this cover illustration was likely Edna Hutt, Henry’s wife and his favorite model, whom he considered the most beautiful woman in the world. Unfortunately, their union was an unhappy one, with accusations of abuse on both sides, including “use of ‘strong liquors,’ intimacy with other women, and cruelty.”
Artist J.C. Leyendecker was well known for his illustrations of strapping, strong-jawed men, starting with the Arrow Collar Man and continuing throughout his long relationship with The Saturday Evening Post, where he illustrated more covers than any other artist, including Norman Rockwell. The model for this illustration appears to be Leyendecker’s partner, Charles Beach.
John LaGatta’s illustrations depicting beautiful, sultry women were considered to be some of the most desirable artworks of the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s. His style was a favorite of advertisers, including Campbell’s, Ivory Soap, Kellogg’s, Johnson and Johnson, and—not surprisingly—Laros Lingerie and Spaulding Swimwear.
This is one of six covers that Alex Ross painted for The Saturday Evening Post. All of his covers featured beautiful women, but this beach scene is the only one that doesn’t focus on a single person. Anyone who has spent time at the beach knows that a successfully completed game of cards is highly unlikely (unless the cards are made of lead).
De Mers illustrated this short story by Steve McNeil, which posed the question, “He’d quit his job to escape the pressure and confusion of city life. Should he go back now, to please a girl?” From the look on his face, you already know what the answer is.
Snyder illustrated this short story by M.G. Chute called “The Trouble with Love,” where we learn than “No man liked a sloppy, forgetful date who came without a bathing cap or didn’t have enough bobby pins along.”
“Jimmy braced himself for the shock. She was wearing a chartreuse-and-black swimming suit. She was sleek and gently tanned and showed more curves than Warren Spahn. She put on her bathing cap and looked at Jimmy enigmatically.…Clinically, he had to admit that Jill Foley, in a bathing suit, was as tasty as ice-cold watermelon.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose likeness is sitting on our young virtuoso’s volume of finger exercises, was playing minuets on the family harpsichord at age four— but could he have done so if he had been obliged to play with flippers on both feet and a swimming pool staring him in the face? We wonder. The model used by artist George Hughes is the same youngster who appeared on our January 9, 1960, cover. His mother was standing over him on that occasion, letting him know that he had stalled long enough and that he was not to go outside until he had written a Christmas thank-you note to Uncle Vic.
Most of us have seen swimmers of this ilk before. He was the kid around the corner who spent his vacation periods counting the days until he could return to school. He was the character in your platoon who used to volunteer for guard duty. Dick Sargent’s likeness is a realistic one. See that gap between the upper front teeth? Comes from gnawing on tree trunks. You can spot an eager beaver every time.
Valentine’s Day is a popular time to get engaged, so we thought we’d share some of our loveliest engagement covers, from early-1900s Edwardian beauties to the 1960s woman who knows just what she wants.
This artist’s “Fisher Girl” was as well known at the time as Charles Dana Gibson’s “Gibson Girl.” The rosy cheeks and softly styled hair were hallmarks of his style, and this 1910 cover bears all the characteristic of a typical Fisher cover. His art appeared frequently in The Saturday Evening Post and Cosmopolitan, which called him “The World’s Greatest Artist.” He clearly had a preference for painting women, as the bridegroom is nowhere to be seen.
Artist John LaGatta used depictions of glamorous, elegant women in a romanticized world of “old Hollywood” to provide an escape from the realities of the Great Depression. Coming to America from Italy with nothing, LaGatta eventually become one of the most sought after illustrators in the country, earning as much as $100,000 a year throughout the 1930s and 40s. This illustration is typical of his oil-over-charcoal technique.
When an artist in Arlington, Vermont, needs models, he can always call on neighbors—it must have been a rare citizen of that New England town whose face hadn’t appeared in at least one cover or illustration. So George Hughes drafted artist Mead Schaeffer‘s daughters Patty and Lee. Lee is the one with the engagement ring; you might remember her from this crazy story. Then he asked neighbor Paul Benjamin to pose as the gent who didn’t share the ladies’ excitement about matrimony. “The picture is out of character,” said Hughes. “Benjamin actually is a very amiable guy.” The only real problem was the bus. Arlington wasn’t big enough to need city bus service, and Hughes had to wait until a bus operator who hauls workers to a nearby factory had a bus in the garage for repairs.
This cover features an emerald necklace (in the background, middle shelf) that was in the Post twice. It first appeared in May of 1948, in an photo for an article about Jules Glaenzer of Cartier and Company. When artist Alajalov, a friend of Glaenzer, wanted to look at a jewelry store without buying jewels, he just popped in at Cartier. “Want to put this in the picture?” Glaenzer asked, producing the necklace featuring a 107-carat emerald. “As an academic question, how much is it?” Alajalov asked, his eyes watering. “A million dollars,” was the reply. “Let’s just see the price tag.” the painter gasped. Glaenzer replied, “We never tag anything over a hundred thousand dollars.” (No word on how much that engagement ring cost.)
Constantin Alajalov must have been in a loving mood, because here we have yet another engagement ring cover from him. The young couple may only have eyes for each other, but the proprieter would rather have his eyes on his TV set at home.
Artist Kurt Ard is an expert at painting charming scenes of everyday life: a boy waiting nervously in the dentist’s chair, a couple (one luxuriating, the other suffering) in the sun, a group of ladies—and one tired boy—at the hair salon. Ard clearly shares Norman Rockwell’s sense of mischief and warmth that make his illustrations universally appealing.
This cover by George Hughes brings to mind the slogan of a Baltimore, Maryland, jewelry store: “Marriages are made in heaven, but engagements are made at S. and N. Katz.” Love may be forever, but the price has sure gone up over the years.
It’s that time of year again where half of us are sniffling, sneezing, and wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed. If misery loves company, you’ll love our vintage Post covers of people suffering from the common cold.
In 1917 the way to take care of a cold was to curl up in a big quilt and soak your feet in a steaming tub. At least according to artist J.C. Leyendecker. Have a handkerchief handy for when the steam loosens up the nasal passages. Unfortunately, we haven’t improved this cold-treating technique much in the 101 years since this cover was published.
Remember when doctors made house calls? Well, okay, we don’t either, but some Post cover artists remembered. Artist George Hughes shows us a doctor calling on a woman taken ill. Sort of. Actually, the Mrs. is seething while her hubby is diverting the doctor’s attention. Who is the patient here, anyway? Perhaps the doctor is just good at multi-tasking.
George Hughes shows a doctor who would be a good detective. Finding a sick little boy in a bed cluttered with this many toys was a good day’s work. Hey, when a guy isn’t feeling good, he needs his creature comforts around.
Keeping a close eye on the proceedings is the boy’s dog. A very large dog. Maybe this is why doctors don’t make house calls any more.
What really stinks is when you’re sick during a big event. The young lady in Norman Rockwell’s 1937 cover is missing the big dance. Cough syrup, atomizer and hankies are poor substitutes for a pretty dress, corsage and dancing with a cute guy. This falls under the “Life is Unfair” category.
Have a good time at camp, and goodbye.
We will pick you up come mid-July.
While you fight off mosquitos,
We’ll sip on mojitos
And blast the ol’ A/C on high.
Congratulations to Jennifer Klein of Tel Aviv, Israel! For her limerick, Jennifer wins $25 and our gratitude for her witty and entertaining poem describing First Day at Camp, George Hughes’ cover from July 3, 1954.
If you’d like to enter the Limerick Laughs Contest for our next issue of The Saturday Evening Post, submit your limerick through our online entry form.
We received a lot of great limericks. Here are some of the other ones that made us smile, in no particular order:
As much as I want to enjoy it,
An issue exists that might spoil it.
Not the missing TV
Or my teddy, you see,
But the lack of a working flush toilet.
—Paul Desjardins, West Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
To his parents it’s perfectly clear:
Their boy does not want to be here.
All morning he’d fussed,
But he soon will adjust,
And be begging to come back next year.
—Joyce Petrichek, Finleyville, Pennsylvania
We’ll see you the first of September.
You’re mad at us now, but remember:
If Mom gets her way,
By April or May
We’ll have a new family member.
—Roger Harris, New York City, New York
The mother, she looks apprehensive.
The boy looks a little bit pensive.
And as for the dad,
I suppose that he’s mad
That this summer camp’s so darn expensive.
—Neal Levin, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Daddy says camping is cool —
No homework, no lessons, no school.
Now I will have fun
But they will have none,
Just drinking their wine by the pool.
—Bonnie Draje, Solon Springs, Wisconsin
Just think of the fun you’ll discover
At camp, while I’m home with your mother.
And if all goes to plan
We will increase our clan,
And you will come home a big brother!
—Michelle Gordon, Airway Heights, Washington
Our look says, “We love you, dear one.”
We know that this camp will be fun.
Yet, while you’re away,
We grown-ups will play,
And we’ll miss you — a little — dear son.
—Joan O’Kelley, Hoschton, Georgia
A boy tries his best not to cry
As his mom and his dad wave goodbye.
I don’t mean to annoy,
But which one’s their boy?
The artist does not specify.
—Sam Beeson, American Fork, Utah
This seemingly heartbroken scamp
Is secretly eager for camp.
It gives him a while
To practice a style
His parents would otherwise cramp.
—Jeff Foster, San Francisco, California
Classrooms may have changed from pencils to PowerPoint, but the Saturday Evening Post has always been there to witness sending our kids back to school.
Robert C. Kauffmann painted five covers for the Post, on a variety of subjects from pets to water skiers. With their backs to the viewer, we can only guess what these two are feeling about the first day of school.
Frances Tipton Hunter was one of the most nationally recognized artists in Post history, depicting childhood in a style similar to Norman Rockwell. Most kids grow about 2 inches each year, so this mother likely has a lot of work ahead of her.
This is one time when the kids look happier than the dogs do about going to school.
When Stevan Dohanos painted his picture of the first day of school, the children were brimming with excitement—not because they were posing for a cover, but because the day in question was a great day indeed. It was actually the last day of school, in June.
Artist George Hughes painted this scene at Bennington College, in Vermont, which operates a nursery school. “Do you ask me if I have any children of my own?” Hughes mutters. “Only five girls. The one who is crying on the cover is, of course, mine.”
If artist George Hughes hadn’t stationed the young lifesaver on that corner, would that man have stepped dreamily into the street, just missed being nicked by the car, and then blamed it in loud words on the driver?
Regarding that impending touchdown, we bet the teacher knows enough football to rule it illegal—ball was snapped after the school bell rang.
Artist Thornton Utz vows that when he was very little he liked school so much that he asked his folks if he couldn’t also go to night school. In time he got over that aberration.
In mother’s ears is a faint, faraway ringing—would it be an echo of the youthful din that has dinned in her ears all summer, or does she think she hears what she is merely imagining, a school bell ringing? Anyway, peace.
[From the editors of the July 31, 1948 issue of the Post] While most of the country was sitting around complaining about the rain, Stevan Dohanos was watching the sky anxiously, wondering if we would ever get over a stretch of good weather. He started this cover while taking a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Friends posed for him, the sun was shining brightly. Dohanos went home to Westport, Connecticut, sure that whole summer would be fair. “I had a marvelous break,” he said. “It rained for three days straight. I could go out any hour of the day and get rain research.” He added gratefully that “one man’s nuisance is an artist’s gain.” We hope readers who get soaked will remember that while it may be raining rain to them, it is raining research to an artist.
[From the editors of the October 9, 1954 issue of the Post] Grandpa and Grandma Chugchug, bless their elderly souls, are hurtling along on a holiday joyride. To which the subsequent motorists might well add, “And more power to them!” Oh, well, let the dammed-up itinerants repress their damns, for they’ll fetch loose in time, though not when the no-passing zone ends, for them fourteen vehicles will approach from the other direction. Now, who is right in this clash of desires: the people who want to get someplace, or the two who are where they want to get, out in the green land leisurely absorbing the beauty of the placid hills? Maybe both conditions have virtue—like the time Mr. Dohanos got stuck while trying to catch a train. He thought up that cover while awaiting the next train.
[From the editors of the July 9, 1955 issue of the Post] John J. Pathfinder is lost, and his wife is accompanying him. With the gallant pioneering instinct which has made America great, he took a short cut between Points A and B, and see what soul-soothing scenery he has found. The helpful scyther is telling him to turn cast beyond the second creek, then bear south just past a pasture of black and white cows, hut Pathfinder is still lost, having forgotten how Scyther said to get to the second creek. If he had heeded his wife’s counsel that short cuts tend to be long cuts, Mr. Sewell wouldn’t have had a cover; besides, men don’t do that anyway. Well, as lost souls wander in circles. Pathfinder probably will come out at Point A where he started, and won’t that send him into gales of laughter!
[From the editors of the July 7, 1956 issue of the Post] The way for a loving husband and wife to resolve a conflict like this is to toss a coin; then, when they find they are on the wrong road, both can talk to the coin, which has a phlegmatic personality and won’t care. Unhappily, one of these helpmates will prevail over the other; then, after the road proves wrong, conversation will be renewed, a total of two conflicts. Shouldn’t that man do the steering and let his wife navigate, in as much as nobody can think clearly under a cap like that? Anyway, let us hope that after they’ve been lost a while longer, they will see the drollery of their predicament, and laugh, and savor its humor, but this is a forlorn hope. As those people aren’t illustrator and Mrs. G. E. Hughes, what they are doing with G.E.H.’s suitcase is incomprehensible.
[From the September 9, 1956 issue of the Post] A vacation is wonderful, except to come home from. Well, pop, skip the head scratching; whisk the stuff in, and let’s go. Time’s a fleeting; 175 miles wend ahead on the road map; and if that sky isn’t cooking up an all-day precipitation, maybe there’ll only be a brief nor’easter with gusts up to fifty mph. When pop gets home, will he find his grass eight inches tall? That’s a mean, heartless thought, which is hereby withdrawn with apologies. Kind thought: happily it hasn’t occurred to mother that if she transplanted her flowers into peach baskets, they might bloom at home for many a day. Why doesn’t pop turn that boat over, dump all the debris in there, batten raincoats over it, and stop fooling with his head? Because then Steve Dohanos wouldn’t have a cover.
[From the editors of the June 15, 1957 issue of the post] High-speed pikes are wonderful inventions, except for a few bugs that need to be ironed out, such as exit signs moving by too fast. To go along with George Hughes’ trouble-making, let’s assume that Mr. and Mrs. Tripp ran low on petrol some miles ago, had to exit into the hinterland to raise a gas pump, and now are unfashionably late as guests at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Waite, away over that away via Route M-20. Should Mr. T. back up, thus enraging pilots of gasoline thunderbolts behind him, and mayhap landing himself a ticket? Should he, with keen regret, proceed ahead 32 miles? Or should he throw cautionary signs to the winds, turn right beyond the rocks, drive gallopy-gallopy across the greens ward, and beat it hell-for-rubber up old M-20? Real moot questions, eh?
[From the editors of the August 22, 1959 issue of the Post] “A life on the ocean wave, a home on the rolling deep.” She is having the time of her life, but he is not at home there at all. Indeed, Mr. Tiller is not in good health, and the smartest tack he can take is to tell his lady fair he just remembered an important business appointment on shore. Artist Dick Sargent heartlessly churned up those waves to turn his man gray-green, for when Dick sketched a sailor on Long Island Sound, the water was humane, and the man looked fine—so did a pretty model who was with him. After they landed, the girl turned gray-green—and that’s a switch. Originally Mr. Tiller was located on the far side of that boat, but Sargent moved him for fear he’d tip the whole shebang over. Dick’s a good sailor; he didn’t get sick painting this.
[From the editors of the September 15, 1962 issue of the Post] Part of the fun of owning a sports car stems from coping with minor inconveniences such as having to put up your top in a sudden rainstorm. Artist John Falter approached this “fun” with feeling. Once he owned a sports car himself—a 1947 English Singer Drop-Head Coupe with self-canceling trafficators. It wasn’t waterproof.
Old Technology, Young Students
There are lots of ways for teachers to teach students about history. They can do it the usual way, through the reading of books and taking of tests, or through pop culture and even by showing students the history of food. Another way to do it is with technology, which is how Stephen Scully is doing it.
The Westford Academy teacher is letting his kids get hands-on with old technology to show them what the world was like before iPads and smartphones. The kids are using manual typewriters, rotary phones, punch clocks, inkwells, and even a German Enigma machine that teaches them about codes and World War II.
I think my favorite part of the story is that Scully plans to teach them about bomb shelters by packing them into the school’s janitor’s closet and have them eat freeze-dried food. Now that’s hands-on.
The World of Puns
Puns can be painful, but reading about them doesn’t have to be. Fast Company’s Joe Berkowitz has a new book out titled Away with Words: An Irreverent Tour through the World of Pun Competitions. I bet you didn’t even know there were “pun competitions,” but they exist. They range from the Punderdome (sigh) 3000 in Brooklyn, New York, to the O. Henry Pun-Off World Competition in Austin, Texas.
I guess there are competitions for everything.
The book’s title is a pun itself, a play on the phrase “a way with words.” Wordplay in the titles of books about puns and punning is so common — a quick search turned up The Pun Also Rises, Have a Little Pun, and It’s a Punderful Life — that I have to wonder if it might actually be a law, and whether there’s a special police farce to enforce it.
Olivia de Havilland vs. FX
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was really enjoying Feud, the FX drama that looks at what went on behind-the-scenes of the Bette Davis/Joan Crawford movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? A lot of people like the series. Olivia de Havilland isn’t one of them.
The Gone with the Wind actress is suing the network and producer Ryan Murphy for how she is portrayed in the show. De Havilland is played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, and the real de Havilland doesn’t like how the network “appropriated Miss de Havilland’s name and identity and placed her in a false light to sensationalize the series and promote their own businesses.”
In other Olivia de Havilland news, she celebrated her 101st birthday on July 1.
How Do You Like Your Steak?
Well done. I like my steak well done. You have a problem with that?
I once had a friend look at me sideways with a shake of the head when I told him I liked my meat well done. He couldn’t understand how anyone could like their meat “burnt.” But here’s the funny thing about food: You like it the way you like it. It’s not “burnt” to me; it’s the way I think it tastes best. I’m not sure how people can think it’s okay to be the food police and dictate how you should prepare something. You even get it from cooks in restaurants (and I can testify to this because I worked in restaurants for several years), because cooks seem to know how their customers should eat their food.
I’m in the minority, though. According to data gathered from Longhorn Steakhouse from May 2016 to May 2017, most people like their steak cooked medium, followed by medium-well, medium-rare, well done, and then rare.
Americans eat 25 billion pounds of meat a year, a statistic that surprises me. And I bet most of that was consumed this past Tuesday.
RIP Skip Homeier, Barry Norman, Van Amburg, and Loren Janes
Skip Homeier was a veteran actor who started as a child under the name “Skippy” Homeier. He won acclaim in the stage and movie versions of Tomorrow, the World!, in which he played a Nazi youth who came to live with a family in the United States. He had roles in hundreds of movies and TV shows over the years. He died on June 25 at the age of 86, but his children announced his death just this week.
Barry Norman was an acclaimed movie critic and TV host in Britain. He hosted the BBC show Film for over a quarter century, wrote for The Guardian, The Observer, and The Times, and was the author of many books. He passed away last Friday at the age of 83.
If you lived in the Bay area in the 1970s and early ’80s, you know Van Amburg. He was considered the Walter Cronkite of the area, a solid, well-loved anchor for KGO-TV. He died on June 22 at the age of 86.
Loren Janes appeared in every single movie ever made. Okay, that’s an overstatement, but not by much. Janes was a stunt man who performed in hundreds and hundreds of movies, from 1955’s Jupiter’s Darling to 2002’s Spider-Man. He did stunts in many Steve McQueen films, including doubling for McQueen in the famous car chase in Bullitt. Janes died June 24 at the age of 85. Here’s his IMDb page for all of his credits.
This Week in History
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams Die (July 4, 1826)
That’s right, both Jefferson and Adams not only died on the same exact day, that day just happened to be the Fourth of July. Not odd enough for you? Well, both Jefferson and Adams were also born on the same day: October 30, 1735!
P.T. Barnum born (July 5, 1810)
The famous showman was well-known for the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute,” which might be why you believed me when I said that Adams and Jefferson were born on the same day. (Jefferson was actually born on April 13, 1743.)
This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Fork in the Road” by George Hughes (July 7, 1956)
A lot of families are hitting the road for vacations this month, much like the couple in this George Hughes cover. Only today they wouldn’t be arguing over an unfolded map. More likely than not they would be yelling at the GPS voice about which way to go.
Pick Blueberries Day
Picking fruit is something I don’t think about. I know a lot of people go apple-picking in the fall, but the only picking I do is when I go to the supermarket and pick apples and oranges and blueberries out of the produce bins. (This paragraph makes you believe I eat a lot more fruit than I actually do.)
This Monday is Pick Blueberries Day. It’s probably way too hot where you are to eat hot soup, so how about this Special Chilled Blueberry Soup from Chef Scott Jenkins? Or if you don’t mind turning on your oven, you can make Blueberry Buckle or this Blueberry-Oatmeal Breakfast Cake.
And here’s Fats Domino singing “Blueberry Hill.” There aren’t enough blueberry songs.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
Barbershop Music Appreciation Day (July 13)
This is one type of music that isn’t appreciated these days. The only time you hear it is if someone is making fun of it or performing it ironically. There should be a barbershop quartet supergroup, maybe with Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber. That would get barbershop music on the charts, and kids would download barbershop songs to their iPhones.
Bastille Day (July 14)
It marks the day in 1789 when the Bastille Prison in Paris fell. It became a national holiday in 1880.
People talk about the special bond between mothers and sons, but some of these ‘40s and ‘50s moms don’t look so sure.
Any mother can relate to the problem of the growth spurt, as painted by Frances Tipton Hunter, who created 18 covers for The Saturday Evening Post. Hunter was particularly interested in drawing children and animals. She also illustrated a series of paper dolls in the 1920s for the Ladies’ Home Journal, which proved to be extremely popular.
[From the editors of the April 17, 1948, issue of the Post] The old, old losing fight to keep a boy in clean clothes, when in five minutes he can get dirtier than a grease monkey, is noted here by an artist taking his first crack at a cover. He is George Hughes, one of the country’s best-known illustrators, whose work in that field is highly familiar to Post readers.
[From the editors of the June 5, 1948, issue of the Post] Stevan Dohanos’ two sons, Peter and Paul, were in an Eastern boys’ school and about this time last year, getting-out time, he took the family car up to help them move home. A passenger car, he learned, is no proper vehicle for such a job. It calls for a light truck or van. Brooding about this, and what it meant for the future, Dohanos mentioned his trip to a friend with a son or sons in college. They told him his real moving jobs are still ahead, when he tries to load the contents of one college room. The artist made his sketches on the Yale campus, but rearranged things to suit his purposes. The boy is George Ritter, of Westport, Connecticut, no Yale man. The artist didn’t use a Yale man, on the remarkable theory that none would like to cut class.
[From the editors of the October 16, 1948, issue of the Post] It’s that suspenseful occasion when a young man puts on his first tuxedo to go out to a formal party—or more commonly, first puts on his father’s tuxedo or one borrowed from an older brother. Looking around for models, it occurred to artist George Hughes that some of his neighbors would serve excellently. The boy getting ready to dazzle them at the dinner dance, if he doesn’t forget and wear moccasins, is Tommy Rockwell, son of artist Norman Rockwell. The woman essaying the puzzling job of tying somebody else’s tie is Tommy’s mother. That is Tommy’s room, in Arlington, Vermont, and Hughes was much impressed—he thought it remarkably tidy, as boys’ rooms go. Temporarily tidy, at least, and you can’t ask more than that.
[From the editors of the February 25, 1950, issue of the Post] “Outfitters to Young Gentlemen,” proclaims the suit box, in a blundering effort to make the victim of its contents feel as swell as he looks. The young character does not wish to look like a young gentleman. What, he wonders in horror, will the gang down the street think when he bursts upon their gaze and is recognized as the guy they had always thought of as a normal, gun-toting cowboy? Will they clasp their hands as mother is doing, only with a less complimentary ecstasy? One ray of hope plays on the dark scene. In the next few weeks other misguided mothers will get this same new-suit fever, and on Easter Sunday many young cowpokes, in similar outrageous disguises, will be comforted by their companionship in misery.
[From the editors of the September 8, 1951, issue of the Post] This mother’s face is charming upside-down, but if you will also stand on your head, you will find that she wears a choleric expression. She is mad at her son, which is unreasonable, for she herself has lost his shoe. He took it off last June, and is it not a woman’s duty to take care of her men’s clothing? We know where the shoe is: it is either in the Apache hide-out under the forsythia bush, in the cowpoke’s corral in the vacant lot down the street, or Fido is preserving it in his kennel as an objet d’art. Junior will go to school in sneakers, and nobody will care except his mother, who doesn’t go to school. Next week she very likely will think all this is funny, and what the moral of Jack Welch’s theme is, we don’t know.
[From the editors of the September 20, 1952, issue of the Post] Inventors are so smart at dreaming up new types of cloth, why doesn’t some bright fellow concoct a rubber-base fabric, so that the suit of an expanding boy can occasionally be put on a stretcher and thus increase in pace with its master? When this idea goes into production, we get a 10 per cent cut or somebody gets sued. Meanwhile, Dick Sargent’s distraught homemaker can take a few gussets in that stationary suit and hang it on Son #2, but then the boy will promptly outgrow it. Oh, for the deflated old days when it wasn’t necessary to stop eating for a while to finance a new suit or stop buying suits to eat. Well, better times ahead, mother! Soon the lads will be big enough to hand down their clothes to their father.
[From the editors of the November 8, 1952, issue of the Post] Little Johnny Tomorrow has just walked past young Mr. Today, making the latter look aged and out of date. It reminds us of a sad occasion when an airliner captain asked a little passenger if this was his first time up. “Fourteenth,” said the lad. ‘Can’t ever get up higher ‘n five, ten thousand feet in these old planes, though. How’s the United States ever going to build a space platform if you fellas can’t make altitude?” The captain, epitome of modernism, turned green and crept away to rev up his creaky old engines; and the boy should have been spanked for insolence, except that actually he had his feet on the ground. When artist Sewell’s youngster gets tired of wearing that helmet, the hostess could put it on somebody who is snoring.
[From the editors of the December 20, 1952, issue of the Post] What is lovelier than the glow of care-free joy in the faces of happy children? Will the lady on the cover have the time to defend her food and change those expressions to the pinched melancholy of starvation? She will if she can make it across the room in time. It will be fairly cruel if she imprisons the lads in the kitchen with nice, healthy, disillusioning peanut-butter sandwiches, but not as cruel as the time Dick Sargent set up that enchanting pastry in his dining room to paint. He has sons. The mouths of the sons began to water. They watered for a week. Two weeks. Three. Then the sons were released at the pastry. They ate it so fast they apparently did not notice it was petrified, claims the fiendish father.
[From the editors of the October 22, 1955, issue of the Post] Mother is making rapid progress at teaching the boys to maintain a tidy room; if George Hughes had painted this the day school opened, the detail would have given him a lame arm. Now, here is portrayed an intelligent female who in her delicate way molds the character of men; so, when her boys are seniors in college, they will be 27 per cent tidier than now. Then they will get married and never leave so much as a pipe cleaner lying about—for six weeks. After that they will revert to human beings, and what they don’t chuck around will be what they haven’t got. A woman’s picking-up-stuff is never done. Why doesn’t this mother shock the boys into tidy conduct by simply leaving their shambles untouched? Because they like it this way. She’d better go buy herself a new hat.
[From the editors of the May 11, 1957, issue of the Post] Johnny’s happy shout of “Mother, I’ve brought something for you!” is an understatement. Dick Sargent certainly can paint the most delicious-looking mud; did he use maple fudge for a model? Now then, when mother regards her ex-clean carpet and the adoration in the eyes of her seldom-so-soiled son, what type of emotion will possess her? Although a mother’s ups and downs often come simultaneously, and situations like this are all in the day’s work and love, the temperature of her reaction will depend partly on whether she’s a phlegmatic soul or pop-offy soul. Yet it’s a good bet that before she undertakes to make things come clean, she will administer to her son, fudge and all, a good, sound—kissing. Afterthought: if Fido decides to shake himself, all bets are off.
[From the editors of the February 15, 1958, issue of the Post] It’s typical of the male sex that Johnny is realizing how much his favorite lady means to him only when she is about to go away—and that’s enough psychology for this week. So John wants to cling to her, which will overlay a stunning new chocolate pattern on her dress, a chic addition to what seems to be a golden-fingerprint motif already put there by designer Amos Sewell. Without meaning to be unreasonable about this, is Miss Sitter going to come to the rescue or wait until the television program ends? Johnny’s situation is a bit pathetic as mamma delivers what football fans will recognize as a beautiful straight-arm; yet he does have loving parents, a swell home, luscious food, brisk entertainment and a pretty girl to dine with—what more can a young fellow ask?
[From the editors of the November 29, 1958, issue of the Post] It looks as if artist Amos Sewell’s cover urchin is entering a bathtub of his own free will, and is therefore outwitting himself. Johnny’s decision to try out his diving gear has made him forget to remember that using water for the purpose of getting clean is bitterly repugnant to him. Mother could remind him of this, but why burden his little mind with confusing thoughts? So down Johnny will dive into the mysterious depths, seeking treasure on the floor of the sea, and down there he may well find a bar of soap. Then if mother and son excitedly agree that Johnny has found a rare specimen of submarine life worth maybe a trillion dollars or more, they will be sharing just a little white lie from which, as mother makes with the soap, great good will come.
America is in love with football, and if these Post covers are indication, they always have been. Glimpse into the hilarity and heartbreak of life on (and off) the field.
Not much is known about illustrator Alan Foster, who created more than 30 covers for the Post. His narrative style is reminiscent of Norman Rockwell’s, and his paintings often capture the silly and joyful moments in life.
An artistic specialty of E.M. Jackson’s was painting women in poses that made them appear seductive and glamorous amidst architecturally authentic backgrounds. Usually, he illustrated for manuscripts involving romance and high society. However, he also illustrated for a wide variety of genres, including murder mystery and (as illustrated in this cover) masculine adventure.
Eugene Iverd lived in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he often used children there as his models. Iverd produced 30 covers for The Saturday Evening Post between 1926 and 1936.
Lonie Bee illustrated 6 covers for the Post, all focused on sports, and most depicting a moment of consternation, whether it was cheerleaders mourning a losing game or a football player trying to sway the ref.
Emery Clarke was an illustrator of magazine and pulp novel covers, one of the most well-known being the Doc Savage series. He also collaborated with Russell Stamm on the comic strip, The Invisible Scarlet O’Neal.
It seems to John Falter that one of the best moments in football is that curtain-going-up moment when the squads trot out on the field. For one thing, the team in which your hopes are invested always looks pretty good at that stage; even an outfit that is going to take a terrific lacing when the whistle blows can look like champions executing this maneuver. The politic artist said the squad might be that of any school whose colors are orange and black. That takes in a fine range of educational institutions and makes it almost impossible that Falter should have picked a loser. He chose the Princeton stadium for background, and Falter Hypothetical Institute, taking the field, seems to be based on Princeton, without the Tigers’ stripes. (Reprinted from the November 1, 1947 Post)
With baseball temporarily out of their systems, sport lovers now are concentrating on the gridiron in their constant search for nervous tension. The spotlights of fame play on the collisions of 200-pound colossi in great stadia. But Norman Rockwell reminds us that the super crises are suffered back-country, where Bill Jones, of Mapleville High, strives for the honor of a town where everybody has known him since he was knee-high to a tackling dummy. If Bill wins the game, he’ll not be just a remote newspaper hero, but the idol of the gals in his algebra class and of the mayor he meets walking down the street. If he loses it, the gals will go home teary-eyed, and so may the mayor. “Heads or tails?” grunts Joe Fate, the referee. (Reprinted from the October 21, 1950 Post)
This ferocious young grid star, magnified by the terrifying man-from-Mars armor peculiar to football and inflamed by imagination, is about to crunch the enemy’s forward wall, snare a forward pass with his fingertips and weave 70 years down the field for a TD as thousands cheer. Actually, the first play in which he exposes that new uniform to the stark realities of life may see him land on his neck and become a door mat, while some other guy does the crunching. But Artist Hughes says that if this does happen, we can be confident that any lad he would paint will find biting the dust distasteful and will react with such vigor that within a few years he will he offered athletic scholarships to fifteen colleges. (Reprinted from the November 17, 1951 Post)
What strange switch on traditional romance have we here? Those two peaches can’t just be asking for a bite of apple; no, they are applying to a man some seductive apple-polishing with intent to captivate, then capture him. Well, how come that they are chinning themselves on the bony shoulders of H. Arthur Jet and leaving Big M over there looking as if he might break down and cry? Artist Dick Sargent’s theme is that in the fall a young maid’s fancy seriously turns—in these serious days—to thoughts of eventual matrimony, and that H. Arthur is not only a good guy but, being enamored of technology, a potentially good provider. So be it; but let’s not sell Big M short. There is no law against a football star’s becoming another kind of star, too, and lots of them have done so. (Reprinted from the October 17, 1959 Post)
The Harvard chap in the foreground is searching for a receiver in the open, but his view is blocked by an exultant pack of Yale Bulldogs. It would seem that while the Crimson was successful at a hot-dog stand, Yale spoiled the attempt at a goalline stand. “Bull-dog! bull-dog! Bow, wow, wow!” shriek the Yale fans, as portrayed by artist George Hughes. (Hughes is neutral. His father-in-law is a Yale graduate, but both his sons-in-law are Harvard.) The Harvard-Yale rivalry commenced in 1875, and Eli Yale has a seventeen-game edge. This week’s combat will be staged at Harvard Stadium — not that the field of battle is likely to affect the outcome. The Bulldogs took a drubbing in 1914, the year the Yale Bowl was dedicated. Yale had the bowl, we read somewhere; Harvard supplied the punch. (Reprinted from the November 19, 1960 Post)
From a modern perspective, the following sentiment may seem a trifle patronizing. But in an era marked by the one-career family — and clearly defined gender roles — this appreciation of moms everywhere was heartfelt and, we have to say, charming. Read the backstory on Mother’s Day here.
For Most Mothers It’s “Mother’s Day” All the Year Round
By Richard Attridge
Originally published on May 11, 1957.
For days leading up to Mother’s Day, there will be a run on flowers, candy, and other gifts, and millions of telephone calls, telegrams, and greeting cards will crisscross the entire nation. Kids at home will make special efforts to be thoughtful and considerate, and sons and daughters who are away on their own will make long journeys, if necessary, to get back to the old home and pay their loving respects to the actual “first lady” in their lives.
The real heart of the matter, however, is that “every day is mother’s day,” and she usually observes it in her own less glamorous way: by washing and ironing, cooking and sewing, dusting and cleaning, waxing and polishing, shopping, planning, economizing, tending the furnace and the babies, worrying about her teenagers, teaching the kids their manners, and generally encouraging, exhorting, and living for all her family. A great many mothers whose children are in school have also managed to take on part-time jobs, so that time won’t hang heavy on their hands.
Apart from these routine aspects of the average mother’s day, she has her own “memorable occasions” which aren’t celebrated nationally, but always remain in the calendar of her memory: the first time she looks at her first little one in the hospital; the day any of the kids take those first wavering steps on their own two legs; the day they actually begin to talk; the day they start off bravely, spick and span, for the first grade, and then have their first date, and graduate, and get engaged and marry and have kids of their own.
All sons and daughters — and husbands, of course — gladly and happily celebrate official Mother’s Day, maybe serve her breakfast in bed, buy her presents, and go to a lot of trouble to get home if they can, or send messages. Just the same, it wouldn’t hurt any of us to keep in mind that in a different sense “every day is mother’s day” — and one of the wonderful things about her is that she wouldn’t have it different.
Moments with mom have taken center stage on The Saturday Evening Post cover throughout the 20th century. Norman Rockwell, Richard Sargent, George Hughes, Amos Sewell, and others have shown the special, sometimes challenging, and often humorous roles that moms play. As a salute to mothers everywhere, we present this look at moms on the covers of The Saturday Evening Post.
Celebrating Mom on the covers of The Saturday Evening Post (click on the covers to see larger image):
Born in New York City in 1907, George Hughes grew up in the epicenter of twentieth century art and advertising. He stayed in the city until adulthood, skipping college to attend the National Academy of Design and the Art Students’ League in the city.
After having finished his education, he provided freelance illustrations to the fashion industry including works for Vanity Fair and House and Garden. In 1936, the automotive industry drew him away from New York to Detroit. He worked in a stable job, contracted as a special designer, a Mechanical Designer for car companies. He disliked the industry, and shortly thereafter moved back to New York City.
Upon returning to the city, he had a short-lived first marriage and joined the Charles E. Cooper Studio. He created art and copy for the firm, and was eventually picked up as a talent for representation by American Artists. He quickly remarried. This time, love lasted a lifetime. He married a woman named Casey, and the two had a total of five daughters.
In 1942, Hughes caught the eye of Saturday Evening Post Art Director, Ken Stuart. Hughes had created a simple illustration for an interior fiction piece in the magazine. Stuart then commissioned Hughes for a series of WWII portraits of American generals titled “These Are the Generals.” This collection brought Hughes early national fame, and the Post kept tabs on his developing work for later possible covers.
With a growing family, Hughes and his wife decided they needed more living space. It was time to leave New York’s urban sprawl. George knew that Arlington, Vermont was growing in popularity among American artists. The Schaeffers, the Rockwells, and the Athertons were all family friends who lived there. In 1946, George and Casey bought a small farm near the other artists.
Their apparent reasons for purchase included the scenery and good business. The Hughes’s wanted to cultivate an air of artistic sophistication, forcing themselves into the popular artist group. Their plan paid off as Hughes soon became a recurring Post cover artist.
Hughes once remarked that he enjoyed sailing in summer, duck hunts in the fall, and skiing in winter. Arlington, Vermont turned out to be the perfect place to build his life. The Hughes’s developed lasting friendships as well. George often ran into Norman Rockwell in downtown Arlington. Rockwell would ask George’s opinion on his sketch ideas, but constantly painted the opposite of George’s advice in his final draft. The situation became a running joke between the two artists.
George Hughes’s first Saturday Evening Post cover was on the April 17th, 1948 issue. From that point on, Hughes had a successful career in the art world. He completed a total of 115 Post covers, along with illustrations for McCall’s, Woman’s Day, American Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, and many more.
Hughes, more than any other Post artist except Rockwell, survived the rise of photography. His last Post cover was July 14th, 1962 until he completed one more for the magazine revival in 1971. In the 1970s, he switched professions in the art world to become a successful portrait artist. He lived a full life, and died in 1990. During his lifetime, Hughes had seen his work on display in the Detroit Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Covers by George Hughes
What’s worse than walking miles to the gas station after running out of gas? According to artist George Hughes, it’s the reality that there never was a gas station in the first place.
His September 2, 1961 cover, “Out of Gas,” confuses viewers with a befuddling logic problem, a dark joke, and a sad situation one hopes never to encounter.
A realist painter, Hughes incorporates the awe-inspiring vastness of the southwestern American landscape into the story he paints. The surroundings are empty in a borderline surrealist manner. The scope of the desert is immense. The empty blue sky adds to the scene’s sense of total isolation. The large composition’s horizon line trivializes the two human forms to enhance the distance they have already overcome.
Understanding this cover takes some quick logic to work out the predicament. The two men walk the same unending road, hoping to find a gas station. Assuming the next gas station was closer than the last one they had passed, the two men set out ahead of their stalled vehicles in search of an oasis. Unfortunately, as the two men meet what might by several miles down the road from their cars, they realize they assumed incorrectly. They must return from whence they came, and start the journey for a gas station over in the opposite direction.
Hughes picked the exact moment the two men stop in their tracks to realize their horrendous choices. The artist even painted a dried out skull of a dead animal by the side of the road. This simple reminder hints that, while funny, a dehydrating situation is no laughing matter.
Even the title of the illustration provides a quirky, yet insightful pun. Not only are the vehicles out of gas, the men are too. The figures are slumped in hopeless desperation. One man dresses in the casual attire of vacation, the other in white-collar workday clothes. The day hasn’t gone as planned for either one.
George Hughes had a talent for connecting with his audience through humor, and viewers typically enjoy his work because they identify with each painting’s message. One might not ever actually walk the wrong way to a gas station in the desert, but we all face agonizing mistakes we regret when we’re already running on fumes.