Norman Rockwell's Scout Memories

Norman Rockwell (1894–1977) was one of America’s best-known 20th-century artists, creator of hundreds of cover illustrations for magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and Boy’s Life. The Boy Scouts of America published the latter magazine; Rockwell also did a painting for the organization’s annual calendar every year but two from 1925 through 1976. He painted Scout Memories for the 1931 calendar.

Donation to The Children’s Museum

93.73.1, Scout Memories painting, Norman Rockwell, USA, 1931

Today Scout Memories is displayed on Level 3 near the entrance to The Power of Children 5.1.g link exhibit. Donated to the museum in 1993 by the estate of Florence Reynolds Wise of Anderson, Indiana, it features Dan Beard, a buckskin-clad Boy Scouts founder, telling a story by lamplight to a young Scout, with images of pioneers in the background. Found tacked to the door of a bookcase in its late owner’s home office, the painting was cleaned and restored before being framed for exhibition.

Rockwell’s America exhibit

Scout Memories was featured in the traveling exhibit Rockwell’s America: Celebrating the Art of Norman Rockwell, which the museum hosted from June 18, 2005 to Jan. 16, 2006. With the help of the SerVaas family, local owners of Curtis Publishing (parent company of The Saturday Evening Post), and the National Scouting Museum, the museum was able to supplement the 10,000-square-foot exhibit’s Rockwell reproductions with 10 original paintings.

Over its seven-month run, Rockwell’s America attracted multigenerational crowds for one simple reason—like Dan Beard in Scout Memories, Norman Rockwell was a storyteller. His paintings invite viewers into a scene and allow them to expand on what they see based on their personal experiences. While Rockwell’s images evoke nostalgia in some viewers, they prompt others to tell their own stories. And swapping stories is something people of all ages and all eras do—Rockwell just told his with a paintbrush.