During the early 1920s an executive at Brown & Bigelow, the largest calendar publishing house in America, saw Rockwell's Red Cross paintings and was struck with the idea that a calendar featuring Boy Scouts, the nation's fastest growing youth movement, would be very popular. Brown & Bigelow approached Boy Scouts of America (BSA) with the idea and an alliance was formed. The first Boy Scouts calendar was published in 1925, using the painting A Red Cross Man in the Making.
Brown & Bigelow believed in the success of the project, and by the fall of 1924 they already had BSA and Rockwell working on the 1926 calendar. The artist did the painting free of charge as a thank you to the Scouts for helping him get a start in his career. The painting, A Good Turn, was literally a good turn by Rockwell for the Boy Scouts and was the first painting he completed specifically for the calendar series.
Between 1925 and 1976 Rockwell missed only two years (1928 and 1930), creating a total of fifty calendar paintings for BSA and Brown & Bigelow, forty of which are in The National Scouting Museum collection. These images were incredibly popular, and BSA used them extensively for the promotion of all Scouting programs. In addition to the calendar, each year's picture was featured on the cover of the February issue of Boys' Life magazine.
Posters, plates, mugs, figurines, and even stamps of the images were produced and BSA featured several of the paintings as covers for their handbooks. Scouting magazine used the Rockwell covers for many of its issues as well, and on a local level, councils and troops used the images on brochures for Courts of Honor and Blue and Gold banquets. Rockwell's Scouting paintings were reproduced and seen everywhere in the Scouting world.
The artist's good temper was surely a factor in his success. The staff of BSA worked closely with him from start to finish of each painting. BSA usually came up with the idea for each of the calendar paintings and, early in Rockwell's career, would even send someone to his studio to check on his progress. They insisted that all details in the painting were accurate: the uniform had to be spotless, all insignia had to be in the correct position, and the model portraying the Scout had to be a wholesome, clean-cut youth. BSA was very demanding of the artist who, fortunately, took their demands in stride.
In 1932 BSA wanted to commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of George Washington's birth. The resulting painting, A Scout is Loyal, shows a larger-than-life George Washington with a Scout or two in the foreground.
In four of its calendar paintings BSA chose to honor the Scoutmaster; these include The Campfire Story and Pointing the Way. For Rockwell's seventy-fifth birthday BSA insisted that the artist place himself in the 1969 calendar painting. Rockwell had used himself as a model for many of his paintings, but had never before been required to make himself the central figure. Beyond the Easel was a tribute to Rockwell, honoring him as he had honored Scouting for so many years.
To keep up with the tremendous amount of work, Rockwell developed a disciplined system for producing paintings. Initially he turned BSA's ideas into drawings, beginning with small idea sketches either in pencil or oil. After producing the sketch, he showed it to BSA for their approval before proceeding. With that accomplished, he assembled his models, props and furnishings. Through the mid-1930s Rockwell worked from live models, but this process was so tedious for both artist and model that he began drawing from photographs taken at modeling sessions instead. He used neighbors, friends, family, and sometimes clients as prototypes for the people in his paintings. For example, his son Tom posed as an Explorer Scout in On My Honor, and BSA President Irving Feist and Chief Scout Executive Alden Barber posed for characters in America's Manpower Begins with Boypower. A professional photographer would often take seventy or eighty photographs for each painting. Rockwell kept these on file, sometimes using settings -- street scenes, landscapes, etc. -- from one painting for another. Because of his popularity, deadlines were always a problem and the photo file helped to ease this. A Scout painting, however, would sometimes share certain similarities with a Post cover.
Norman Rockwell was a visual storyteller, documenting traditional American values. His dedication to detail has resulted in authentic presentations of history. More than that, though, he is an important 20th century illustrator whose images contribute both to the legacy of Scouting and the American culture.
Over the years, he would include various Senior Scouts in his painting: Sea Scouts, Explorers, Air Scouts, Leadership Corps members, and the like. He also accurately captured the uniforms that were worn by this different programs at the time he painted them, so we can glimpse a history of their changing uniforms and insignia.
In the sixties, Rockwell's focus broadened to include many more minority and foreign Scouts. His calendar paintings for the world jamboree years of 1963 and 1967 both depicted Scouts of various nations joyously united.
The artist died in 1978 at the age of 84.
[reference: The Boy Scouts, Robert Peterson]
The following are Norman Rockwell's calendar paintings:
A Good Scout
Scout bandaging puppies foot with mother dog watching.
A Good Sign All Over The World
International Scouts dance to bagpipe in front of globe.
A Good Turn
Scout reading to old sailor with puppy.
A Great Moment
Mother pins Eagle on Scout with father and Scoutmaster.
A Guiding Hand
Boy Scout teaches Cub Scout on box to tie a knot.
A Scout is Friendly
Scout in patrol 7 helps elderly couple with small boy.
A Scout Is Helpful
Scout carrying girl wrapped in quilt in flood.
A Scout Is Loyal
Scout with hat in front of Bill of Rights, presidents & Eagle.
A Scout is Loyal
George Washington points way for Scout in front of clouds.
A Scout Is Reverent
Explorer and Scout sitting in pew in front of Cub Scout.
A Scout Is Reverent
Scout kneels in church pew next to elderly man.
Scout with pack pulling another Scout with dog up onto rock.
America Builds for Tomorrow
Scout shows 2 Cubs & Den Mother how to build bird house.
America's Manpower Begins With Boypower
2 Cubs hold Scout emblem in front of Scouts and leaders.
An Army of Friendship
Smiling international Scouts in campaign hats salute.
Beyond The Easel
Rockwell painting with Scouts watching.
Breakthrough For Freedom
International Scouts link arms in front of flags.
Small boy saluting in large uniform with Cub uniform on chair.
Outdoorsman points way for hiking Senior Scout with dog.
Come And Get It
Scout tastes cooking near Scouts & leader along lake at Camp.
Ever Onward [50th anniversary]
1910 Scout and 1960 Cub and Scout hold scroll of Scout oath.
Explorer, Cub, Scout, Air Scout, and Sea Scout in profile.
Friend in Need
Cub Scout holds dog as Scout bandages paw near tree.
From Concord To Tranquility
Scouts and astronaut salute in front of flag.
Good Friends [A Scout is Kind]
Scout feeding puppies with mother dog watching.
Good Scout [or A Good Scout]
Scout with campaign hat feeds dog in wood pen.
Growth of a Leader
Cub, Scout, Explorer and Scoutmaster profile in front of flag.
Explorers with packs in front of Tooth of Time at Philmont.
Scout with pack and duffel is checked by father, family & dog.
I Will Do My Best
Scout pledges in front of wall with oath inscribed.
Men of Tomorrow
Cub Scout watches as Scouts portage canoe.
Older brother on knees with family straighten uniform on Scout.
On My Honor
Explorer and Scout pledge with Cub Scout in front of oath.
Scout & Cub Scout with book in front of Washington praying.
Pointing The Way
Scoutmaster points way to 3 Scouts as 4th approaches.
Dan Beard in Daniel Boone outfit telling story to seated Scout.
Scout of Many Trails
Sea Scout and Boy Scout look at globe with old sailor.
Scouting Is Outing
Scout pour out of building and go down street with dog.
So Much Concern
Scouts in red berets with crutch planting trees.
Spirit of America
Scout profile with campaign hat & red neckerchief & US heros.
The Adventure Trail
First class Scout shows 2 Cub Scouts arrowhead near tree.
The Campfire Story
Leader shows 2 Scouts & dog Indian headdress.
The Right Way
Star Scout shows two Cub Scouts how to build bird house.
The Scouting Trail
Cub, Scout, Sea Scout, historic mural and Scouting Trail scroll.
Scoutmaster tends fire as Scouts sleep in their tents under stars.
The Spirit of 1976
Cub, Explorers, Scout and leader with drums, fife and flag.
To Keep Myself Physically Strong
Cub standing on chair measuring brothers chest size with dog.
Scout holds compass in front of Scout emblem & merit badges
We Thank Thee, O' Lord
Scouts seated under dining fly pray as cook watches.
We, Too, Have A Job To Do
First Class Scout in campaign hand salutes in front of flag.
Some other well known Rockwell paintings are:
Boy Scout "War Service" poster.
"Boost Boy Scout Week, June 8th to 14th" & smiling Scout.
June 1914 Boy's Life cover
May 1915 Boy's Life cover
"Don" a boy sitting holding a book.
August 1915 Boy's Life cover
Boy diving into water, only trunks and legs show with splash.
1918 Red Cross Magazine illustration
Scoutmaster leading Scout campfire.
The Daily Good Turn
The "Unknow Scout" with William D. Boyce on street in city.
July 1919 Boy's Life cover
Scout with campaign hat
1935 Jamboree Poster
Scout with stave in front of Capitol promoting Jamboree
July 1935 Boy's Life cover
Scout with stave in front of Capitol promoting Jamboree.
1960 Handbook Cover [50th anniversary]
Scout waves while hiking with handbook in hand.
(Source: Henning's Scouters' Pages)