Norman Rockwell: Saturday Evening Post Covers Illustrating Boys' Fashions during the 1930s

Figure 1.--Two boys are shown in the 1939 "Post" cover shooting marbles with a very proficient young lady. Both boy wear short pants.

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 pertinent details about these covers, and the fashions illustrated, that thet may have noted.

HBC Synopsis

Rockwell continues to dominate Post covers and many show boys' clothing. Knickers are still the primary dress, but several younger boys are shown in short pants. Despite the terrible Depression, the look of his drawings vary little from the prosperous 1920s. Younger boys begin to appear in long pants.

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.

March 22, 1930 "Card Tricks"

Uncle shows off card tricks to his nephew and niece. Boy wears a white shirt, a red tie which may be a bow tie that has come undone or a four in hand tie, and grey shorts without stockings. The boy's legs are hidden by the uncle's, so we can't see what kind of footwear he is wearing.

September 13, 1930 "Weary Travelers"

Father, mother, and boy around five, sitting on a bench with luggage, with all three fast asleep. Boy seems to be wearing a sailor outfit, but it is hard to see the collar. He wears blue shorts, white ankle socks and brown shoes.

March 28, 1931 "Off to the Fire"

Firefighter, with axe and bucket, is racing to the fire without expression, matched stride for stride by an excited boy wearing a white shirt, suspenders, brown knickers unbuttoned at the knee, white stockings, and brown shoes. The inevitable Rockwellian dog also hurries along.

April 8, 1933 "A Breath of Spring"

A rather stylized boy, wearing a shirt, vest, and brown plaid knickers, and carrying his straw hat, stands as spring breaks out around him, listening to a sprite whispering in his ear.

August 5, 1933 "Idyllic Summer"

Standard American kid in straw hat, shirt open at neck, suspenders, and knickers, fishing in a stream, being enticed by water dryads and other such creatures, who are probably trying to entice him to stay in the idyllic setting as a youth forever.

November 25, 1933 "Child Psychology"

Mother reads a book called "Child Psychology", held in one hand. With the other hand, she is both gripping the shirt of her child, who is over her knee, and holding a hairbrush. Apparently, applied psychology is in order. Kid (about 2 or 3 years old) wears a shirt you can't see much of, blue shorts, ankle socks, and black shoes.

December 16, 1933 "Ride em, Cowboy"

Grandpa is rocking heck out of the rocking horse he and his grandson, who is holding on for dear life, are on. Kid wears a standard cowboy outfit and a stunned expression.

March 17, 1934 "Thataway"

A young lady is sitting stunned on the ground, having been thrown from a horse. A young boy wearing a red shirt with white spots, and blue shorts (barefoot) points in the direction of the horse's departure.

April 21, 1934 "Spirit of Education"

Young man is dressed in a toga and sandals as "The Spirit of Education" by his mother for some play or something. He looks less than happy about it. While girls love dressing up, school-age boys are often dubiousabout costumes--except perhaps ones they can choose themselves for Haloween.

June 30, 1934 "No More Pencils, No More Books"

Boy wears brown hat, vest, and knickers, and white shirt and necktie. He is barefoot, and is casting aside his schoolbooks.

September 22, 1934. "Starstruck"

Boy in blue sweater, light brown pants, blue socks, and brown and white saddle shoes sits next to his baseball glove and stares at photos of film stars, obviously trying to decide whether to go play ball or go to the movies.

October 20, 1934. "The Lure of the Sea"

Young lad sits atop a weathervane like it was a ship's mast, staring after a seagull. He wears a brown vest, white shirt, and light brown pants and dark shoes, with a hat (you only see the bottom) in his hand.

December 15, 1934 "Tiny Tim"

Bundled up young Crachit sits on Bob's shoulder. He wears long, patched pants. Another historical piece for Christmas.

April 27, 1935 "Spring Morning"

Barefoot lad with unbuckled knickers, straw hat, and white short sleeve shirt stops on way to school to look at two rabbits.

September 14, 1935 "First Day of School"

An historical drawing set in the 1870s or 80s, a young lad in a shirt with large turned over collar and cuffs (no lace), necktie, and pants about three quarters length with buttons by the cuffs, is brought to school for his first day. School mistriss has a switch in her hand--boy can see it, mother cannot.

January 25, 1936. "Big Moment"

Another super famous cover, with a young boy searching through Grandpa's coat's pockets for presents. He's still looking on the wrong side--the puppy is in the OTHER pocket. Boy wears red sweater with a what appears to be a Peter Pan collar from his shirt, brown corderoy shorts, red ankle socks, brown shoes.

May 30, 1936. "Taking His Medicine"

Boy, in a nightshirt and quilted robe, sits on a chair, about to receive a spoonful of medicine.

July 11, 1936. "Young Love"

Older teenage boy and girl sit together on a knoll. Boy wears blue and white polo shirt, light slacks, and saddle shoes.

Novemer 19, 1938. "The Football Hero"

After two years of adult situations, Rockwell returned to a boyhood scene. Football player kneels before cheerleeder, who appears to be sowing the letter on his sweater.

September 2, 1939 "The Marbles Champ"

A girl cleans out two boys in a marbles game. One boy wears a light open neck shirt and blue plaid casual shorts. Second boy wears a striped collared shirt and gray casual shorts.

Christopher Wagner

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