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An Introduction to TE's Mural Collection

AMERICA'S LARGEST ART GALLERY
Murals: Old, New, Good and Bad

Government-sponsored or spontaneous,
it’s an art form we seem to need.

Madill Oklahoma PO Mural Prairie Fire  by Ethel Magafan
Madill, Oklahoma Post Office Mural "Prairie Fire" by Ethel Magafan
TE photo, April 2009

“Postal Art” Comes in Two Sizes
Stamps or Murals – with nothing in between.

In recent years there has been an increase in the awareness of what are commonly called “Post Office Murals.” These were murals (and other works of art) which were created during the years 1934-1943 under several government programs. They provided some decoration for the new post offices that were being constructed all around the country. Funding for the artwork was (creatively) based on 1% of the construction costs of the buildings. The work provided artists with an income – since (as one government official put it) “they have to eat, just like everyone else.” For the stipend that was paid – usually between $300 and $750 – it has been (inch-per-square inch) one of America’s best investments, with the value of some works being deemed “priceless.”
Monett Missouri PO mural ProductsOfMissouri by James McCreery 1939
Monett, Missouri 1939 post office mural " Products of Missouri" (detail) by James McCreery. TE photo, April 2009
Books have been published for postal murals in Arkansas, Indiana, Texas, Tennessee and other states. Over the years, as towns have outgrown their postal facilities, murals have been removed to new post offices or have been recognized for their historic value and now have places of honor in county courthouses and regional museums. About 10% have been destroyed, painted-over or lost since their creation.

While each publication on murals stops at the respective state lines, our coverage does not. Mural themes were often regional and artist’s imaginations were not confined by lines on a map. Nor is our coverage limited only to post office murals.
Ville Platte, Louisiana Painted Wall Mural detail Little Girl with bike by Waven Boone.
Detail from Ville Platte, Louisiana's a hand-painted wall mural by Waven Boone. TE photo April 2009

Investing in Paint

For towns without a geographical or historic draw for tourism, many towns have discovered the (relatively) inexpensive idea of creating their own draw – through paint. Those towns that have the wisdom to employ professional artists seem to fare much better than those who abandon their walls to anyone with a brush. For the towns that have the wisdom and far-sightedness to have themselves declared their state’s “Mural Capital” – the results are even better.
Breckenridge TX Painted Wall Mural 1920 Stephens County Courthouse by Billy Ines
Breckenridge, Texas hand-painted wall mural of the "1920 Stephens County Courthouse" by Billy Ines. TE photo
Breckenridge is Texas’ Mural Capital through the work of a talented “itinerant muralist” named Billy Ines who painted detailed historical murals based on actual photographs. These murals provide a living bridge to Breckenridge’s past – which heretofore was resigned to the town’s museum and archives. Visitors were once limited to genealogists and scholars, but now, thanks to the Ines works, any visitor passing through Breckenridge can “connect” with the town – even if it’s a brief curiosity-piquing moment.
Rayne Louisiana Frogs Play Music Painted Wall Mural
Talented Amphibians occupy a hand-painted mural in Rayne, Louisiana
TE photo, April 2009
In Louisiana, the mural capital is Rayne, a town that tapped into one particular aspect of their commercial history (the exporting of frogs) and have blended the talents of a professional muralist with local painters – keeping the whimsical theme lively (while avoiding bruised feelings).
Oswego Kansas PO mural Kansas Farm Life details
Detail from Oswego, Kansas' post office mural "Kansas Farm Life" by Robert E. Larter. TE photo, April 2009
Disorganization is actually Inclusion
Mural coverage in this series will include both post office and “tourist murals” as well as the stories behind them (when available).

One of the more useful aspects of an Internet presence on any subject is the magnetic factor. New information becomes available frequently – and can be added almost immediately. Anyone wishing to share stories of their murals can write to editor@texasescapes.com with MURAL in the subject line.

Copyright John Troesser
Published May 1, 2009

See Post Office Murals | Texas Murals |
See Texas Post Office Murals

Related Topics:
Texas Post Offices | Texas Photos | Texas Architecture | Texas Towns | Texas |
BOOK - The Texas Post Office Murals: Art for the People
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