Classic Covers: Alan Foster

“String Quartet”

“String Quartet” from January 20, 1923

"String Quartet"
from January 20, 1923

As with many illustrators of the 1920s and ’30s, we were unable to unearth much information about Alan Foster. But we were able to find some of his irresistible covers!

“Sweet Adeline”

“Sweet Adeline” from October 11, 1924

"Sweet Adeline"
from October 11, 1924

“Sweet Adeline” was a barbershop standard by the time of this 1924 cover -– and remains so. The song was written back in 1903, so if this hearty quartet wanted to try something trendier, they could belt out Al Jolson’s “California, Here I Come,” “It Had to be You,” or “Charleston” -– all top songs of 1924. It is intriguing the way the artist captured each face as the singer struck just the right note.

“Faithful Friends”

“Faithful Friends” from September 14, 1929

"Faithful Friends"
from September 14, 1929

Outside “Dist. School No. 4” these dogs wait for their best pals. Foster must have grown accustomed to drawing canines: For three years in the 40s he did a cartoon series for Collier’s called “Mr. Fala of the White House.” Fala, of course, was Franklin Roosevelt’s dog and something of a celebrity in his own right. Foster’s cartoons might show the little black terrier traveling with his master or running off with a senator’s hat.

“Traffic Cop”

Traffic Cop from June 5, 1926

"Traffic Cop"
from June 5, 1926

This 1926 cover shows us a side of commuting we just don’t think much about these days: early traffic signals, manually operated by the local traffic cop. The signal is called a semaphore, and a version of it first appeared in London in 1868. Foster’s traffic official is apparently set for the day, with his lunch and water supply at the ready.

“Hot Tamale 5”

Hot Tamale 5 from August 22, 1925

"Hot Tamale 5"
from August 22, 1925

This rockin’ drummer from 1925 is bringing the house down. Grandma would be shocked…actually, even her photo is appalled! Well, it’s to be expected with a band named the “Hot Tamale Five.” The meager biographical information we were able to glean indicates that Foster illustrated for several magazines of the ’20s, including The New Yorker, and, in addition to painting great illustrations and cartooning, even had a brief acting career.

“I Was Tardy”

 I Was Tardy from September 27, 1930

"I Was Tardy"
from September 27, 1930

Many of Foster’s nearly 30 Post covers were Rockwellian in nature: kids playing sports, or, in this example, getting in trouble in school. But there were style differences, such as the way kids are dressed. We don’t see the holes in the sweaters and patches in the knees we often see on Rockwell’s children. Props, too, seem neater. Again, what we don’t see is a well-worn broom handle or piece of broken crockery. Even the boy’s writing is perfect!

Illustrator Alan Foster passed away in 1969 at the age of 76.