Rockwell’s Breaking Home Ties

As a number of us send our children off to college this August, I have Norman Rockwell’s Breaking Home Ties painting in my mind. It’s a classic.

In the painting a father takes his son out to where the farm road meets the railroad tracks. They wait for the train to stop and pick up the son to take him to State U.

Dad and son are sitting on the running board of a Ford Model A pickup. The Ford Model A pickup truck was the rugged workhorse of farmers at the time. Model A production ended in 1931.

Railroad track seen in the foreground. The flag and lantern will signal the engineer to stop.

The son sits eagerly looking up the tracks for the train—toward the next chapter of his life. He’s holding some sandwiches Mom made and wrapped up for him. He’s ready. Ticket in pocket and packed suitcase between his feet. I wonder where he got the books and what their titles are.

The farm dog sadly knows something is up.

Watch fob hangs from the father’s pocket; a symbol of waiting and anticipation of changes.

Father sits contemplative. Dad looks down the tracks into the distance, wondering about the future of his son—and who will help with the harvest this fall.

The family ties are strong in the painting. The father holds two hats—his own work hat and his son’s hat, for the soon-to-be college student. The father’s last act when the train comes will be to put the hat on his son and say good-bye.


Breaking Home Ties, by Norman Rockwell. Saturday Evening Post cover, September 25, 1954.


Purchase this print at,3933.html Norman Rockwell Museum Store