His mission: to produce a series of illustrations to help advertise the airline.
From Rockwell’s point of view at least it was not a successful campaign. Although he diligently sketched and took photos of tourists and exotic locales, his ideas were at cross purposes with the client's, and only a few ads ended up being published.
“When I returned home and submitted my sketchbook it was rejected. Oh, I did a few ads. Nothing to justify the time and money which had been spent, though. Because the agency and Pan American did not want pictures of the strange lands and people. "Those would only frighten tourists," they said; "we want pictures of smart-looking tourists sunning on smart beaches in front of smart hotels." But that's not the kind of picture I can do. So I did nothing.”
(Video link) Fortunately, a couple of the promotional videos survive, complete with Rockwell’s droll observations.
While sketching the Hawaiian girls in their grass skirts, he says: “It’s kind of difficult to sketch when they move with this peculiar rotary motion.”
William House, son of one of the ad execs who accompanied Rockwell, has produced a detailed recollection of the trip (Click on "Reverse Spins," below).
Photo from Reverse Spins
Video ©AeroArt International. All rights reserved.
The Norman Rockwell Museum