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Magazine Covers Collection

Identifier: RG 2

Scope and Contents

A collection of sample illustrated covers from various magazines represented largely by the Saturday Evening Post(1901-1973), the New Yorker (ca. 1935-1994) and Time (1939-1985), but also include Asia (1924-1935), Colliers (1904-1945), Fortune (1932-1973), Charm (1924-1934), Life (largely 1936-1981) and many other titles. Women's magazines such as the Ladies Home Journal (largely 1893-1933), House & Garden (largely 1931-1945), Ladies World and Housekeeper (1904-1915) and the Woman Home Companion (largely 1901-1925) also figure prominently. Many of these covers were collected for the Newark Public Library's Picture Collection and often were clipped to demonstrate noted illustrators or important graphic design work. Magazine covers such as Graphis (ca. 1950s-1980s), the Saturday Evening Post, and Punch (1955-1977) document this collecting trend. A large number of the subjects include politicians, celebrities, World War II, women and/or children and there are frequent special holiday covers, featuring Christmas in particular. The years covered are not all-inclusive and only a sampling of issues exist for each magazine title.


  • 1822 - 1994
  • Majority of material found within 1900 - 1977


Conditions Governing Access

Available by appointment only. Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied or photographed without permission from library staff.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.

Biographical / Historical

The art used to illustrate magazines is as much a reflection on the attitudes and popular culture of a people as television is today. Beginning with the first illustrated magazines such as Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated, publishers delighted subscribers with engravings and etchings of illustrations of the week's news or interesting fiction. But what really made these publications attractive was that some publishers commissioned great artists of that period— from Winslow Homer to Thomas Nast—to provide the visuals for the accompanying text. Though art historians of the time may not have deemed magazine illustration a fine art, some truly fine artists did improve their skills in the commercial art world or were encouraged to do so by their fine art instructors.(1)

As the home periodical industry grew and as printing became more accessible and color printing cheaper, publishers began creating notable, multi-color or full-color works for the covers of their magazines even if the remainder of the publication was in black and white. Enormous effort was put forth for the cover, which included not only color, but— just as the illustrated weeklies before them—work from major artists as well as ambitious newcomers. Illustrators such as Maxfield Parrish, Charles Dana Gibson, J.C. Leyendecker, Jessie Wilcox Smith and certainly Norman Rockwell— who is arguably America's most famous magazine cover artist—all had the similar goal of drawing in potential readers and subscribers with their originality, interesting subjects and artistic talent. Ultimately it was the advent of photography that spelled the demise of the illustrated magazine cover and though Life employed photographic covers starting in the 1930s (and other even before them), it really took until the 1960s for the genre to completely end, save for a few publications such as the New Yorker and Esquire.(2)

Artists who could land commissions to provide magazine cover art were lucky and only a few drew high salaries. Many artists became synonymous with the magazines for which they did multiple illustrations: Rockwell at the Saturday Evening Post, Gibson at Collier's and Coles Phillips at Good Housekeeping. Cover artists were often not given much leeway with the work produced, acting often "like court painters than expressive bohemians."(3) Because of this, the art of magazine illustrators and artists was perceived as a lesser body of work compared to the fine arts on display in museums and galleries through the early to mid twentieth century. However, by the century's end and the overwhelming popularity of some of these illustrators, many became more respected as artists, had exhibited work in group and solo shows and some even now have their own museums.

The true importance for these images is that given the high quality of some of the work employed, it provided a foray into art for an audience much wider than the local museum or gallery. As with television in later decades, weekly and monthly magazines provided art and literature to the masses, many of whom did not or could not afford to see art in other venues. For many people the cover art of a magazine might be the only art with which the person would ever come in contact.(4) The covers in this collection showcase the themes that were common during the height of magazine illustration: love, everyday activities, fun, holidays but also war and social issues. As is still the case with modern-day publications, magazines highlighted certain trends and made bold political statements, women's magazines often showcased the latest fashions, while men's magazines often showcased beautiful women. Regardless of the content, the cover was the coveted space not only for the magazine to sell subscriptions, but also for artist to shine on a national stage.

(1) Heller, Steven and Louise Fili. Cover Story: The Art of American Magazine Covers, 1900-1950, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996, 11. (2) Heller, 17. (3) Heller, 9. (4) Heller, 10.


2 Cubic Feet (6 portfolio boxes)

Language of Materials



A collection of sample magazine covers from various popular women's and cultural magazines highlighting noted illustrators.


The collection is organized first alphabetically by magazine title, with the Saturday Evening Post and the New Yorker in their own boxes due to the number of covers. Oversized covers succeed these two magazines. Additional information on various magazine illustrators, with Norman Rockwell in particular, can be found in the Illustrators Information Files maintained within the Special Collections Division.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Anonymous gift, in part, September 1983. The majority of the covers came from the Newark Public Library's former Picture Collection, originally held in the Art and Music Department.


Carter, Alice A. The Red Rose Girls: An Uncommon Story of Art and Love, New York: H.N. Abrams, 2000.
  • Crowley, David and Michael Beazley. Magazine Covers, London: Octopus Publishing, 2006.
  • Guptill, Arthur L. Norman Rockwell, Illustrator, 3rd ed. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1970.
  • Heller, Steven and Louise Fili. Cover Story: The Art of American Magazine Covers, 1900-1950, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996.
  • Kery, Patricia Franz. Great Magazine Covers of the World, New York: Abbeville Press, 1982.
  • Rockwell, Norman. 332 Magazine Covers, New York: Abbeville Press, 1979.
  • Schau, Michael. J.C. Leyendecker, New York: Watson-Guptill, 1974.

Processing Information

Processed by Chad Leinaweaver, March 2009.

Chad Leinaweaver
March 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections, Newark Public Library Repository

5 Washington Street
PO Box 630
Newark NJ 07102 USA