Way back in 1912, Boys’ Life editor Edward Cave couldn’t have guessed what he was getting into when he hired a teenager to draw pictures for the brand-new magazine. That 18-year-old artist was Norman Rockwell, born on Feb. 3, 1894.
Rockwell became Boys’ Life’s first art director, creating some of the most memorable cover illustrations in the magazine’s history. In fact, during his five years at Boys’ Life, Rockwell created more than 200 cover and story illustrations.
Rockwell went on to build a legendary career as an artist, but he never lost his roots to Scouting. His association with the BSA continued for more than 60 years. In fact, every year from 1924 to 1976 (except for two years he spent traveling through Europe) Rockwell created an original oil canvas painting with a Scouting theme for the Brown and Bigelow Boy Scout calendar — and the February cover of Boys’ Life.
His last painting for the Boy Scouts — a calendar illustration titled The Spirit of ’76 — was completed when Rockwell was 82, concluding a partnership which generated an astounding four hundred and seventy-one images for periodicals, guidebooks, calendars and other promotional materials. His connection to the BSA spanned sixty-four years, marking the longest professional association of his career.
Memorable Norman Rockwell Boys’ Life Covers
Learn more about Scouting and Norman Rockwell
Norman Rockwell Biographical Timeline
- 1894 – Norman Percevel Rockwell born February 3, 1894 to Jarvis Waring and Anne Nancy Hill Rockwell, New York, New York.
- 1912 – First published illustrations are featured in Founders of Our Country, by Fanny E. Coe, 1912. Later that year, Rockwell is hired as a staff artist for Boys’ Life magazine
- 1913 – Appointed art editor of Boys’ Life magazine. Moves to New Rochelle, New York.
- 1916 – First cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post is published on May 20, 1916. Marries Irene O’Connor.
- 1917 – Enlists in the Navy.
- 1925 – In cooperation with the Brown & Bigelow calendar company, the first of fifty annual Norman Rockwell Boy Scout calendar illustrations is published.
- 1929 – Rockwell and Irene O’Connor divorce.
- 1930 – Upon visiting friends in California, Rockwell meets schoolteacher Mary Barstow. After a three-week courtship, the couple is wed and moves back East.
- 1931 – Jarvis Waring Rockwell is born to Norman and Mary Rockwell.
- 1933 – Thomas Rhodes Rockwell is born to Norman and Mary Rockwell.
- 1936 – Peter Barstow Rockwell is born to Norman and Mary Rockwell.
- 1939 – Rockwell and family move to Arlington, Vermont. Presented with the Silver Buffalo Award by the Boy Scouts of America.
- 1943 – The artist’s Four Freedoms illustrations are published in The Saturday Evening Post and on Treasury Department posters to encourage the sale of War Bonds during World War II. On May 14th, Rockwell’s Vermont studio is devastated by fire destroying costumes, props, hotographic equipment, correspondence, and an undetermined number of artworks.
- 1949 – Publishes the first of many calendar illustrations for Brown & Bigelow’s popular Four Seasonsseries.
- 1953 – Moves to Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
- 1959 – Mary Barstow passes away.
- 1960 – Publishes autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator, in collaboration with son Thomas.
- 1961 – Marries Mary ‘Molly’ Punderson, a retired schoolteacher.
- 1963 – Rockwell’s last cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post is published, Portrait of Gamal Abdel Nasser, May 25, 1963.
- 1964 – The Problem We All Live With is published in Look magazine, marking a new era in which Rockwell will illustrate topical subjects such as the American Civil Rights Movement, The Peace Corps, and early space exploration.
- 1972 – Bernard Danenberg Galleries in New York City hosts first major retrospective of Rockwell’s work.
- 1976 – Publishes The Spirit of 1976, his last calendar illustration for the Boy Scouts of America.
- 1977 – Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the Nation’s highest civilian honor—by President Gerald R. Ford. Rockwell announces that his friend and colleague, Joseph Csatari, will assume the role of official artist for the Boy Scouts of America.
- 1978 – Norman Rockwell passes away at his home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, November 8, 1978.