New York In The Late 1940s As Seen By The Saturday Evening Post’s Cover Artists

Five Classic New York City Saturday Evening Post
Magazine Covers

A magazine with great cover art? The New Yorker fits the bill with every issue having an illustration adorning the covers since beginning publication in 1925.

Over the course of the 20th century photography eventually replaced magazine cover art. But if there was a magazine that could give The New Yorker a challenge in the cover art department, it would be The Saturday Evening Post.

If The New Yorker was the quintessential representative for sophisticates, then The Saturday Evening Post represented the rest of America. The covers of The Saturday Evening Post mirrored America, the same way The New Yorker echoed New York.

Arguably no New Yorker cover artist past or present is widely known to most Americans. The Post fostered the career of a legendary artist, Norman Rockwell. From the late teens until the 1960s Rockwell drew an astounding 321 covers for the magazine. Rockwell’s name and work is still recognized by millions of people nearly 40 years after his death.

But what of the hundreds of other talented artists who illustrated magazine covers? There were only a few artists who worked for both the New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post. Each magazine wanted exclusivity considering the illustration style was at times somewhat similar.

Every now and then, the Post would feature a New York City scene on its cover.

Here are five examples from the 1940s.

John Falter (1910-1982) drew over 120 covers for the Saturday Evening Post. The April 30, 1949 cover shows Central Park and the skyline of the upper east side. The original cover Falter submitted had a lightning bolt and a rainbow simultaneously, which concerned the Post’s editors. They consulted the weather bureau asking if it was possible to have both lightning and a rainbow appear at the same time? The weather bureau replied they had never seen the phenomenon but where weather was concerned “anything could happen.”

The Post’s Art Department decided to remove the lightning and the illustration appeared as seen here.

Constantin Alajalov (1900-1987) was one of those few artists who worked concurrently for The New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post. The February 12, 1949 cover has  a young lady in a travel office dreaming of getting away from the cold as she’s surrounded with posters advertising sunny locales. Note there is something never seen in New York City anymore: clotheslines connected from building to building. Alajalov originally drew snowflakes falling in the courtyard, but then decided to remove them when he thought: would anyone be drying clothes in a snowstorm? Probably not. So either remove the clotheslines or the snowflakes. Alajalov chose to remove the snowflakes.

The August 17, 1946 Post issue is another John Falter cover. Illustrated from real life, Falter drew this view from the 54th floor of the Chrysler Building looking south. On a hot, sunny afternoon, everywhere Falter looked, the roofs of the surrounding buildings had sun bathers “in quest of health or to get an expensive looking sun tan.” In the upper left hand corner under the magazine’s date is a glimpse of the vanished Third Avenue El.

Thornton Utz (pronounced ootz) (1912-2000) was very proud of his September 10, 1949 Post cover, his first. It also marked his debut as a “professional” photographer. While taking background photos of New York, Utz snapped Vita Quatela’s rolling hot dog stand at 24th Street and Ninth Avenue, which is peeking around the corner in the illustration. Utz placed the hot dog stand on Madison Avenue for the illustration.

Quatela wanted a copy of the photo, so they entered into a contract and later a print was mailed to him with this bill: one  8 x 10 photo – price, one hot dog. Utz planned to pick up the payment himself, this was no case for a bill collector.

In a 1949 Post interview Utz disproved the adage “starving artist.” He said his income in 1948 topped $30,000 for the year. That’s impressive considering an average workman’s salary was $3,600.

January 4, 1947 features the work of Stevan Dohanos (1907-1994) as workers clean up Times Square from the festivities of New Year’s Eve.  The scene is viewed from Duffy Square with the famous triangular New York Times Building in the background. Dohanos has included himself in the picture as a reveler in top hat lending a hand to the DSNY workers. Dohanos created over 125 covers for the Post.

1 thought on “New York In The Late 1940s As Seen By The Saturday Evening Post’s Cover Artists

  1. Kevin

    Re building-to- building clotheslines: I recently saw some from the Q train going out to Coney Island. It was kind of nice knowing that they hadn’t completely vanished.


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