Rural Missouri - May 2021 - 53
Postal Clerk Linda Lower says visitors from near and far have sought out " Corn Harvest " in the Vandalia Post Ofﬁce. The painting by Joseph Vorst
has been on the " must-see " checklist for local schoolchildren on scavenger hunts and out-of-towners seeking out American art history.
painted. Many murals were painted when the New Deal
Once an artist was selected, they were encouraged to
was building new post ofﬁces. In those instances, murals
visit the location or at least write to the postmaster and
were funded with 1% of the construction costs.
important local citizens for suggested topics.
While the funds were primarily applied toward a mural,
Most of the artists went on to have successful careers.
the dollars could also be used for other artistic embellishJoseph Vorst, who painted the Vandalia mural as well as
ments to federal buildings. For example, in Vandalia the
the mural in Bethany, is an example. Raised in poverty in
facade of the post ofﬁce is decorated with three limestone
Germany, Vorst ﬂed as the Nazis came to power and he
sculptures of a plane, train and ship. Each represents a
settled near relatives in St. Louis. For a while
he shared a studio with renowned Missouri
different vehicle the postal service uses to deliver mail.
The St. Louis Post Ofﬁce contains the largest and
painter Thomas Hart Benton.
While most post ofﬁce murals were paintmost expensive mural project in the nation. Covering
ed on canvas, other mediums were also used.
3,000 square feet in nine large panels, the $29,000
The 1941 mural in the Cassville Post Ofﬁce
commission was awarded to artists Edward Millman and Mitchell Siporin, both from Chicago.
by Edward Winter titled " Flora and Fauna of
They took two years to complete the work.
the Region " consists of three panels of painted
In Missouri, and nationwide, the murals
porcelain. Two are devoted to native Missouri
generally remain sources of local pride, even
ﬂowers and plants, while the center panel focusthough they are also frequently overlooked. Often
es on Missouri wildlife. Winter became a nationally
the background of the painters has been forgotten, as has
recognized expert on enameling.
the tie to the historic New Deal.
The Clinton Post Ofﬁce contains the mural " Coon Hunt "
To formally recognize the artistic and historical imporpainted by Richard Haines in 1942 and portrays a hunting
tance of the murals in the history of the nation, in April
party with their dogs staring up a tree trunk. Haines was
2019 the U.S. Postal Service issued a set of commemoraone of the more proliﬁc New Deal muralists. He moved to
tive stamps that reproduce ﬁve of the murals.
Los Angeles after World War II where he taught at what is
now the California Institute of the Arts and the Otis Art
Institute until retiring in 1974.
For more information and to locate and see the Missouri
Some of the murals have been restored. Linda says the
murals, visit the interactive map at www.newdealartregistry.
Vandalia mural was cleaned in 2005, which made the origorg/map/MO.
inal colors as bright and prominent as when it was ﬁrst
Winnerman is a freelance writer from St. Louis.
MAY 2021 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP
Rural Missouri - May 2021
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