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What Ever Happened?

When planning a visit to my daughter’s home in Georgia, I spent some time thinking about what she would like for as gift. In this day and time, it is almost impossible to know what to get—but when the gift is for a person you’ve known all your life you have a slight edge.

Norman Rockwell… hmmm…. always her favorite artist. Now, how can the works of Norman Rockwell be found? I rushed to the computer and searched for information about the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell’s work always appeared in the Post and surely there would be a link from there.

What I found was everything you’d ever want to know about Rockwell and the magazine! I promptly forgot the reason for the search and explored the history of the Saturday Evening Post.

It first appeared on August 4, 1821 as a four-page newspaper published by Atkinson & Alexander. There were no illustrations at that time and no promise that all political controversy could be avoided. The paper continued in this form for about eighteen years before it was significantly changed and advertised as “A family newspaper, neutral in politics, devoted to morality, pure literature, foreign and domestic news, agriculture, the commercial interests, science, art, and amusement.”

By 1855 the Saturday Evening Post had a circulation of 90,000. The owners / publishers went through struggling times financially but kept coming up with new ways to make this publication bigger, better, and more memorable. The POST, as we remember it, became a super popular magazine featuring Norman Rockwell’s beautiful Americana illustration on the covers.

Once having appeared, the illustration graced the covers until nearing the end of its long publishing history. In 1947 it was estimated that each copy of the Saturday Evening Post was costing thirty cents to produce, double the cost of its cover price. Advertising revenue was therefore essential to its economic survival. That worked for a while.

Rockwell had done 317 covers of POST when, in December 1963, the magazine abandoned using illustration on the cover.  From that point on, attempts continued to be unsuccessful in increasing the circulation and the advertising revenue. The publication was put to bed for the last time in February 1969.

Now, what remains of this historic publication is a museum in Vermont that makes available every shape and form of Rockwell’s work—at the same time calling up memories of the days of the Saturday Evening Post.

From the years 1937 to 1971, LOOK was another of the most popular magazines published in America. More often than not, the latest movie stars were featured on their covers. LOOK regularly covered serious social issues including politics. The lead time needed to compile and distribute the bi-weekly magazine, was responsible for the results of an opinion poll, in the 1964 presidential election, appearing on some newsstands three weeks after Kennedy’s November 22nd assassination.

When LOOK ceased publication in 1971, its owner gave the magazine’s archive of negatives to the Library of Congress.

The minute you see certain photographs, you recognize them as having appeared on the cover, as well as inside LIFE magazine. The 1945 VJ kiss was one of the most memorable photographs that ever appeared… anywhere… and it was in LIFE. All the photos—from front-line war pictures to back country beauty—were what made LIFE magazine sing with popularity.

So, all that being said and done, I still have to find the right gift. I’m captivated by Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, the barbershop illustrations, and the spring flowers. Wonder if she would like a selection of these illustrations.

Kitty Maiden is a staff writer for Seniors Today.