Norman Rockwell: Saturday Evening Post Covers Illustrating Boys' Fashions during the 1910s

Figure 1.--This was the first Rockwell cover for the "Saturdat Evening Post". This like many subsequent cover depicting boys' clothing involved the clothing in the story behind the drawing.

Rockwell sold his first cover painting to the Saturday Evening Post in 1916 and ended up doing over 300 more. The early Post covers provide fascinating glimpses of children clothes. Rockwell was fascinated by children and many of the covered addressed their foibles and nicely illustrated their clothing. The Post covers include all areas of Americana, including presidential portraits. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson sat for him for portraits. He also painted other world figures, including Nassar of Egypt and Nehru of India.

A helpful HBC contributor has nicely cataloges the Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cocers with information about boys clothing. He notes that, "I did not try to include every single cover which has a boy in it. For example, "A Day in the Life of a Boy" does not appear, because it, and other covers I haven't put in here, do not show enough costume details to be interesting. I also exclude a few showing boys on the borderline of adulthood wearing clearly adult outfits.

Note: HBC contributors are incouraged to submit additional pertiment details about these covers, and the fashions illustrated, that thet may have noted.

1910s Synopsis

Knickers were of course the most common clothes worn by American boys in the 1910s. Although Eockwell only began drawing cobers for the pist in 1916, quite an amazing number included boys, providing quite a detailed pictured of boys' wear in the late 1910s.

The Covers

Here is the details on the covers provided by the HBC contributor. The chronological organization provides a useful time line reflecting fashion chnges and can be compared with the chronological information available on U.S. boys clothing.

May 20, 1916 "The Baby Carriage"

Two boys, dressed in baseball uniforms, are mocking a third boy, dressed in a pinstriped suit and formal hat, pushing a baby carriage and with a baby bottle in breast pocket. Rockwell's first cover for SEP. There is just enough detail to see that the boy's suit has short pants of some sort. This like many subsequent cover depicting boys' clothing involved the clothing in the story behind the drawing. In this case the boys playing baseball are making fun of the boy in fancy clothes who has to take his baby brother or sister for a stroll.

June 3, 1916 "The Circus Barker"

The same boy as in the previous cover, wearing a top hat now and pretending to be a circus barker, showing off the "strong man". The boy is wearing much the same suit, but he is not visible below the shoulders due to a homemade circus poster.

October 14, 1916 "Family Night Out"

Family group shot, amazed at the movies. Boy is wearing a suit, difficult to tell much about it.

January 13, 1917 "The Suitor"

Great drawing. Girl is sitting on a sofa with a young man (perhaps 18) in formal wear. A younger teenager, perhaps 15 or so, approaches wearing a Norfolk suit and knickerbockers, to ask the girl for a dance. The difference between the knickers and the long pants worn by the older youth is subtly emphasized.

May 12, 1917 "A Salute to the Colors"

Group shot of a (most probably) Civil War veteran, a young lady, and a boy of about 12 wearing an early Boy Scout uniform. Veteran has removed his hat, boy is saluting, the flag is obviously passing by.

June 16, 1917 "The Clubhouse Examination"

A boy wearing a suit with knickers (he has removed his jacket and straw hat) obviously wants to join the local gang. But there's a five foot minimum height, and he is not going to make it. A second boy, making the measurements, is wearing a military-style costume.

October 27, 1917 "After School"

Comely teacher is visited at her desk by young suitor as boy (sentenced to write "Knowledge is Power" many times on blackboard) turns head to watch, possibly wondering if he can blackmail teacher. Kid is wearing a white shirt and either knickers or long pants, hard to tell (his back side faces us).

January 26, 1918 "Pardon Me"

Two dapper young boys in knickerbocker suits and party hats are dancing with girls. One of the two has just stepped on his girl's foot.

May 18, 1918 "The Clown"

Boy in casual country outfit (barefoot!) is backstage at circus meeting clown, who is relaxing with newspaper.

August 10, 1918 "The First Hair Cut"

Young boy is having his long curls clipped off by barber as mother holds handkerchief to her face, weeping. Boy is exultant. Alas, his outfit is hidden by barbershop smock.

February 22, 1919 "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again"

A number of young lads, some in pretend-military uniforms, others dressed casually, are marching with the returning, decorated, veteran.

April 26, 1919 "Playing Party Games"

Girl and boy (who is wearing a Norfolk suit with a shirt with a very wide collar, and knickerbockers) are pulling a party cracker and waiting for the bang, which is imminent.

June 14, 1919"The Recitation"

Boy dressed similarly to previous cover has stood at a school recitation to deliver a speech, and has forgotten his lines. Another boy dressed much the same way, and a girl, look on with delight.

June 28, 1919 "Leap Frog"

Famous cover, showing two boys in ragged clothing, including knickers, and one boy is leaping over the other.

August 9, 1919 "Runaway Pants"

Boy (most likely at camp), wearing a khaki shirt and red and white striped boxer shorts, a straw hat which is flying off, and an outraged expression as a dog runs away with his knickers.

September 6, 1919 "Taking a Break"

Boy, in shirt, suspenders, and ragged knickers, is taking a nap with his hoe in his hand instead of doing his chores. Straw hat lies nearby. Dog also snoozes.

October 4, 1919 "Dog Gone It"

Boy, dressed much the same as previous fellow except his pants are patched and may be too-short or rolled-up long pants, is on stilts and having trouble due to his dog's interference.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: January 1, 2000
Last updated: Janyuary 1, 2000