Classic Covers: The Fourth of July Throughout the Decades

Artist Guernsey Moore did many turn-of-century covers (at the turn of the 20th century, not the 21st), and the June 30, 1900, issue appears to be our first Fourth of July cover. Using colonials as representative of the Fourth was popular before the days of fancy fireworks and Fourth of July parades, although firecrackers showed up early. The July 4, 1903, cover shows a man setting off firecrackers and milady, in long skirt, is less than thrilled with the noise (covering her ears was a hint). Hmmm, this theme seems familiar: fast forward to the roaring 20s and J.C. Leyendecker’s cover depicting a young boy setting off a cap gun to make patriotic noises and a little girl covering her ears. Apparently, females do not care for loud noises.

The July 1, 1939, cover by artist Arthur H. Fisher features a dramatic eagle against the stars and bars, complete with a don’t-mess-with-me glare. Shades of impending war? The next decade saw a delightful 1945 John Falter cover depicting a Fourth of July parade in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, complete with patriotic bunting, brass bands, and a crowd having fun. Alas, it wasn’t the real thing that year, as the townspeople didn’t have time for parades. “They’re busy writing letters to the girls and boys in service,” said the editors, who speculated that many a hometown soldier would enjoy the vicarious thrill of receiving the cover in their mail.

Another delightful celebration is shown on the July 4, 1953, cover by artist Ben Prins. The night sky is exploding with festive color and light, and the onlookers are mesmerized at the sight. Well, maybe with the exception of the young boy and girl chasing each other with sparklers (not advisable, by the way).

It would appear that of all our many artists, J.C. Leyendecker (we won’t say he was the most patriotic) stands above the crowd for the sheer number of Fourth of July covers. We’re counting 15, and like all of Leyendecker’s covers, they are a delight, as you can see below.

The Post, as you may know, is revamping and moving into new directions, as shown by our July/August 2009 cover by Eric Bowman, depicting “America the Beautiful” from the perspective of a new generation of talented illustrators. We welcome them with open arms!

But you didn’t really think we would leave our beloved Norman Rockwell out of our celebration, did you? His July 6, 1946, cover shows workmen cleaning the torch on the Statue of Liberty. The editors tell us this happened every year around this time, after which “the mighty lady of Bedloe’s Island (now called Liberty Island) sheds a brighter light, to the general satisfaction of free spirits everywhere.”


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