Press Release-September 2014
EXHIBIT EXAMINES INDIANA POST OFFICE MURALS
NORTH MANCHESTER – The elaborate and colorful murals installed in numerous Hoosier communities during the 1930s are highlighted in the Indiana Historical Society exhibition Local Treasure opening September 29 through November 9 at the North Manchester Center for History, 124 East Main Street.
The exhibition gives a brief history of the federal Section of Painting and Sculpture, which was established in the summer of 1934 “to secure suitable art of the best quality for the embellishment of public building,” and then focuses on the histories of some of the 36 murals commissioned and executed for Indiana post offices that are in existence today. The exhibit is based on a 1995 IHS publication a Simple and Vital Design: The Story of the Indiana Post Office Murals, by John C. Carlisle with photographs by Darryl Jones.
The North Manchester Post Office has one of these vintage murals on the west wall of its lobby. The NM mural is included in the exhibit. People can come to see the exhibit, and then stroll over to the post office to see this historic mural in its original setting.
The first mural installation in Indiana was Henrik Martin Mayer’s two vertically oriented canvases, Sad News and Rural Delivery in July 1936 in Lafayette, while Marguerite Zorach’s Hay Making, installed in Monticello in November 1942 was the last. The “boom years” were 1938 with 12 murals and 1939 with nine new art works in Indiana post office lobbies.
The persons depicted in the post office murals were occasionally specific figures, whether fictional like “The Raggedy Man,” a James Whitcomb Riley character featured in Roland Schweinsburg’s The Sleighing Party in Alexandria, or nonfictional such as Solon Robinson and Chief Mewonitoc in George Melville Smith’s Crown Point mural From Such Beginnings Sprang the County of Lake, Indiana.
“The other people shown may not be identifiable by name, but by type they represent the essence of the American scene concept,” and Carlisle. “They are the farmers, the loggers, the railroad men, the pioneer mothers and the workers of our history.”
The North Manchester Center for History sponsors three traveling exhibits from the Indiana Historical Society each year. Exhibits are planned so that there is a traveling exhibit on site during Funfest and during Harvest Festival, two days when the museum is open to the public for free. The museum contains 9,000 square feet of exhibit space, where much of its 26,000-item collection is on display. Regular Center for History hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from mid-March through mid-December. Special tours can be arranged for other times as well.
Since 1830, the Indiana Historical Society has been Indiana’s StorytellerTM, connecting people to the past by collecting, preserving, interpreting and disseminating the state’s history. A private, nonprofit membership organization, IHS maintains the nation’s premier research library and archives on the history of Indiana and Old Northwest. IHS also provides support and assistance to local museums and historical groups, publishes books and periodicals; sponsors teacher workshops; and provides youth, adult and family programming.