Rural Missouri - May 2021 - 52

Lasting Impressions

Post office murals celebrate history of Missouri's communities
by Jim Winnerman | info@ruralmissouri.coop
photo by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop

W

hether you're sending letters, picking up
packages or catching up with an old friend you
run into, the small-town post office is still, for
many, a hub of communication. But according
to Linda Lower, who has been a clerk in the Vandalia Post
Office for 25 years, there's another reason people visit and
it has little to do with the mail.
" It is not unusual for people to come into the post office
specifically to see the mural in our lobby, " Linda says.
" They are usually from out of town, but somehow they
know the mural is here. They always take a picture of it. "
Titled " Corn Harvest, " the mural has been displayed
since 1942, a year after the post office opened. It depicts
farmers harvesting corn and loading a wagon pulled by
mules. It's one of 29 post office murals in Missouri painted
between 1934 and 1943. They are part of more than 1,200
murals commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Department's
Section of Fine Arts near the end of the Great Depression,
according to author David W. Gates Jr.

52

RURAL MISSOURI | MAY 2021

" They were mostly installed in small communities in
every state as part of the New Deal program of President
Franklin Roosevelt's administration, " David says. " The objective was to make people feel uplifted and positive during
a difficult time in our history, while creating something of
lasting beauty and significance to American citizens. Additionally, they provided work for unemployed artists. "
Post office lobbies were selected to display the art
because at the time these were some of the most frequented businesses in each community. Most of the surviving
murals remain displayed where they were first installed -
usually over the door leading into the postmaster's office.
An important objective of the Section of Fine Arts was to
produce quality art which incorporated topics of local history and interest. The artists were commissioned based on
their previous work or drawings they submitted, and the
competition to be awarded a mural was open to anyone.
The Section of Fine Arts approval process had no particular preference in artistic style. However, judging from the
art that remains, the most acceptable subjects were local
or historical places or events, people of local fame, scenes
of daily life or postal history.



Rural Missouri - May 2021

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