The Saturday Evening Post

Curator's Choice tells the stories behind prized objects and artifacts from the collections of historical organizations and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

Few twentieth-century illustrators have garnered the fame – or adulation – ­that artist Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), who endeared himself to an international audience with his nostalgic glimpses of American life, enjoyed.

Many may think of Rockwell as the quintessential New Englander, but his association with Pennsylvania runs deep. He created hundreds of cover illustra­tions for The Saturday Evening Post­ – beginning in 1916 and continuing with­out interruption through 1963! The Post was published by the Curtis Publishing Company of Philadelphia. He was twenty-two years old when he sold his first cover to the magazine publisher.

Rockwell’s inimitable paintings graced the cover of other leading maga­zines, including Popular Science, Collier’s, Farm and Fireside, Life, The Literary Digest, and Leslie’s. His illustrations also appeared on the pages of The Country Gentleman, Ladies’ Home Journal, Woman’s Home Companion, and McCall’s. It was his Saturday Evening Post covers, though, that brought him an international follow­ing. His widespread appeal stems, in large part, from his covers for The Satur­day Evening Post, which was distributed to soldiers in Europe and Asia during World War II.

The Curtis Center Museum of Nor­man Rockwell Art, founded in 1976, exhibited several hundred Post covers and original works of art by Rockwell until it closed in late 1997. Upon closing, the museum gave a collection of three hundred and twenty-four original maga­zine covers to the Atwater Kent Museum. The Atwater Kent Museum was chosen because of its role as Philadelphia’s history museum and the artist’s connection to the city.

Fifty magazine covers created by Rockwell are on view at the Atwater Kent Museum through spring 1999. In June 1999, the museum will mount a larger, more comprehensive exhibition of his works.

Since its founding in 1938 by inventor and radio entrepreneur A. Atwater Kent (1873-1949), “the History Museum of Philadelphia,” as it is known, has amassed one of the region’s most signifi­cant collections of primary source materi­als relating to the city. Holdings include thousands of paintings and drawings, prints, photographs, as well as numerous toys, games, dolls, tools, military objects, maritime pieces, household artifacts, trade cards, and post cards.

To obtain more information, write: Atwater Kent Museum, 15 South Seventh St., Philadelphia, PA 19106; or telephone (215) 922-3031.