Skip to main content
Go to accessibility options


    Joseph Christian Leyendecker (American, 1874-1951)
    New Year's Baby Hitching to War, The Saturday Evening Post unpublished cover, 1943
    Oil on canvas
    31 x 24 inches (78.7 x 61.0 cm)
    Signed lower left: JCLeyendecker

    The artist;
    Collection of E. Huber Ulrich, Chairman of the Board and CEO Curtis Publishing;
    Private collection, by descent;
    Acquired by the present owner from the above.

    The story behind the New Year's Baby Hitching to War is a fascinating one: The painting was created by Leyendecker to be used as his final iconic New Year's Baby, and his last Saturday Evening Post cover altogether. However, when the Curtis publishing team reviewed the cover, they were concerned it was too unsympathetic to the mothers of America whose sons were headed off to war. Curtis requested that Leyendecker start again, demanding a clearer and more optimistic representation of American patriotism and victory.

    On New Year's Day 1943. The state of war and its outcome were in doubt. The United States had lost ground in the Pacific, the Italian and Northern African fronts had brought few victories, and the Invasion of Normandy was over a year and half away. Leyendecker captures this feeling with the slightly befuddled and uncertain expression on the baby's face that is in direct contrast to his strong and puffed-up stance, as he attempts to hitch a ride to the battle front. The painting leaves the viewer relating to the baby's mixed emotions- he clearly feels a sense of duty, as evidenced by his strong stance-yet his confidence is betrayed by the look of fear and uncertainty in his eyes. It was likely this insecure, apprehensive expression that felt too close to home with Curtis publishing team. After all, this innocent, chubby-cheeked baby was an everyman, representing American's sons, brothers, fathers, and husbands headed to an uncertain fate in a war with no visible end.

    In response to Curtis' request for a more assured and patriotic message, Leyendecker delivered New Year's Baby at War [1943], a dramatic work illustrating a rosy-cheeked cherub thrusting a bayonet clear through the German Swastika, set against a blood-red background (figure 1). However, with his final printed cover, Leyendecker achieved his intended message, with the baby's shocked and surprised lift of the eyebrows as a result of his violent action.

    Despite being an unpublished cover, New Year's Baby Hitching to War perfectly encapsulates the meaning of Leyendecker's beloved New Year's Baby character. Debuting on the cover of the December 29, 1906 Saturday Evening Post, the cherubic baby graced various holiday covers, including Easter and the Fourth of July, but Curtis Publishing soon decided to use the baby exclusively as a New Year's symbol of America's major current issue, such as women's suffrage, Prohibition, entry into WW I, or economic recovery during the Depression. The New Year's Baby was the first cover every year for 37 years from 1906 to 1943. Indeed, the New Year's covers combined the approachable nature of a baby with the harsh realities of adult life prompting readers to consider their own role in current events and how to make the world a better place for children of the next generation.

    The present work has never been seen until now, as it has resided with the family of Chairman of the Board and CEO E. Huber Ulrich of Curtis Publishing in the mid-1940s New Year's Baby Hitching to War offers discerning collectors the rare opportunity to own a piece of American History as well as Leyendecker's secret, previously unknown masterwork for The Saturday Evening Post.

    More information about Joseph Christian Leyendecker, also known as Leyendecker, Joseph Christian, .

    Condition Report*: We would like to thank Chelsea Restoration Associates for the following condition report:

    This painting is in good overall condition.

    It remains structurally unaltered and is on its original stretcher.

    The painting has been cleaned removing a soot, dirt and yellowed resin varnish layer. Inpaint is present corresponding to six small tears and scattered pinpoint stains and abrasions.

    A protective layer of synthetic resin varnish has been applied.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    July, 2020
    1st Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,851

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    Sold on Jul 1, 2020 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 38 days left to consign to the 2022 March 22 Asian Art Signature® Auction !

    Learn about consigning with us

    I am not only a happy first-time consignor, I will be returning! Thank you for the wonderful experience.
    John Paul R.,
    Chicago, IL
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search