Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Deal Era murals

Chase Davis, the son of a Postmaster, sent this wonderful article he wrote about New Deal Era murals:

"My grandma told me about how Franklin Roosevelt was the first president she was able to vote for; Mr. Roosevelt’s legacy still stands in almost every town and city in the United States.

During the Great Depression FDR’s New Deal put many people to work. Some of those people were artists. About one thousand Post Office murals/sculptures survive today from the Great Depression. Many people don’t realize the treasures they have in their local Post Office.

I have photographed New Deal artwork in more than seven states and haven’t even scratched the surface. Like a scavenger hunt I’ve tracked down murals and sculptures in Post Offices across the United States.

One of my more memorable trips was in Helper, Utah, a very small town surrounded by the walls of a large canyon. The Post Office mural in Helper is only one of three in the entire state, it titled “Western Town” and depicts men on horses in an old western style street, and it was painted in 1941 by Jenne Magafan.

Most of these artworks are fresco style murals that were painted by artist who were supposed to relate the subject matter with the area and lifestyle in which they were painted. Agriculture is perhaps the main focus of the majority of the murals.

I like how these murals remind us of America’s agricultural past. One of my favorite murals is entitled “Products of Missouri”, which hangs in the Monett, MO, Post Office. It was painted in 1939 by James McCreery. The scene depicts a hen and rooster near the railroad tracks surrounded by a plethora of produce from peaches, corn to tomatoes and blueberries. Although the mural is nearly 70 years-old, it looks like it could be brand new.

Some murals around the country are in danger, though. Many have been flooded, stolen, destroyed or discarded. I hope that other photographers and I can document these murals so there is a record just in case more are lost forever. I hope these murals and sculptures are around for many years to come so that Americans can remember the hard times and the resolve of the people during the Great Depression."

--- by Chase Davis, with permission
See his photos

Got your own New Deal mural in your office? Send me a photo and a description to

Products of Missouri”, which hangs in the Monett, MO, Post Office

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