Norman Rockwell used Broome County boy for magazine cover

When you think about Norman Rockwell, you think about hundreds of cover illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post and many other magazines from the 1920’s to the 1970’s.

Imagine a half-century of illustrating life in America. Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” exemplified life as the nation fought its way through the Great Depression and World War II. There are countless other examples of well-known images that have spawned countless calendars, prints, collectible figurines and other items that continue to perpetuate what many consider the heart of America.

Norman Rockwell’s work was based out of his studios in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He used real people as the models for his paintings. Some would sit in-person for Rockwell, while many others were photographed, and those photographs became the basis of Rockwell’s studies for the illustrations and magazine covers.

Occasionally, Rockwell would participate in contests from one magazine or another to select one person with photographs exemplified the goals of that contest. That is where our story begins.

The Norman Rockwell painting of George Hamilton from 1922.

In 1921, Curtis Publishing Co. sponsored the “Beautiful Boy Contest.” Curtis published the Saturday Evening Post, as well as Country Gentleman and other magazines. Cora Hamilton, from her Chenango Street farmhouse in the Hillcrest area of ​​the Town of Fenton, thought her son George was the most beautiful boy. She grabbed her Kodak Brownie camera and took two photographs of 12-year-old George Hamilton.

One photograph showed young George in a sailor hat with a grin, while the in other, George was holding two fox terrier puppies. She sent those two pictures to Curtis Publishing, which received them along with another 500,000 photographs from around the country. Half a million images of young boys — sons of countless families from around the country. The odds were stacked against Cora Hamilton and young George.

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