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Ohio Post Office Artwork Collection

This photographic collection of the Ohio Historical Society reflects thirty depression-era murals and reliefs from twenty-five of the more than sixty Ohio post offices with such historic works. The New Deal artworks were collected with the financial assistance of the Ohio Arts Council’s Visual Arts and Crafts Program. Some of the images below, photographed by Connie Girard, were published in the Society’s journal Timeline (June-July 1989). The article, NOT BY BREAD ALONE: Post Office Art of the New Deal, was written by Gerald Markowitz and Marlene Park. The quoted material below constitutes their photo captions used in the article.

The photographs and text are copyrighted and reproduced here with the permission of the Society. Contact the Archives/Library, Ohio Historical Society, 1985 Velma Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43211 for further information.

Some of the artists named below are linked to the U.S. General Service Administration (GSA) Cultural and Environmental Affairs Division’s Fine Arts Collection. Selecting work(s) listed under their name will yield biographical information. You may also search for the work of other artists employed on federal government projects listed at that site by stateartist, and keyword.

(Most of the post office works of art were funded under the Treasury Department’s Section commissions. Those works that were created using TRAP funds are so indicated. Although the WPA funded the construction of post office buildings, the artwork was not WPA but was usually produced under the Section or TRAP programs.)

 


 

Ada

Country Dance by Albert Kotin.

Oil on Canvas, 1940.


 

Amherst

Pioneers Crossing the Ohio River by Michael Loew.

Oil on canvas, 4 1/8 x 14 feet, 1941.

“Michael Loew of New York City incorporated Ohio’s frontier history in his Amherst mural. While it is not apparent from the mural itself, the artist noted their ethnic identities and their search for freedom in his description: ‘Scores of families in search of new land came in their wagons from New England, Germans, Scotch-Irish and Quakers from Pennsylvania, and hosts of settlers from Virginia and Kentucky, many of whom came to escape the evils of slavery.’”


 

Bedford

Exodus to the Cities by Karl Anderson.

Oil on canvas, 6 1/8 x 5 1/2 feet, 1937.

“Some murals with an industrial orientation focused not on the work but on the laborers themselves. Karl Anderson, born in Oxford, Ohio, but then living in Westport, Connecticut, painted a mural for Bedford that recorded ‘the departure of the young people to the cities during the industrial eighties and nineties.’ Young men and women were portrayed leaving their families, and a symbol of the past, a seated Civil War veteran, was on the upper right.”


 

Bluffton

Joseph Deford and His Friends Building the First Cabin in Bluffton by Sante Graziani.

Oil on canvas, 4 1/3 x 11 1/4 feet, 1941.

“The optimistic belief that cooperative efforts offered a solution to Depression hardships may have inspired Cleveland artist Sante Graziani to paint the Bluffton mural as a group of early settlers working together to build a log cabin.”


 

Caldwell

Caldwell, Ohio, Post Office, Study Number One by Robert L. Lepper.

Oil on board, 19 1/2 x 20 1/2 inches, 1937. Janet Marqusee Fine Arts, New York City

“New Deal post office art presented positive images of life in Ohio. Robert Lepper, professor of design at Carnegie-Mellon, proposed a typical mural for Caldwell. Shown here is his original submission, in which Lepper attempted ‘to catch the qualities of the American rural tradition of individual character and independence.’”

Nobel County – Ohio by Robert Lepper.

Tempera, 4 1/2 x 13 1/2 feet, 1938.

“The people, land, buildings, tools, and animals Lepper painted for the mural that was eventually installed in the Caldwell Post Office all displayed subtle but important modifications from his original concept.”


 

Coldwater

Coldwater Activities by Joep Nicolas.

Oil on canvas, 1942.


 

Crestline

The Crossroads – Crestline, Ohio by Gifford Beal.

Oil on canvas, 2 1/8 x 14 1/8 feet, 1943.

“More than one mural emphasized the importance of railroads in Ohio small towns. In Crestline, a community whose livelihood depended on the railroads, Gifford Beal of new York City painted the important intersection of two lines, with a steam locomotive approaching from either direction.”


 

Eaton

Van Ausdal’s Trading Post by Roland Schweinburg.

Oil on canvas, 4 1/4 x 10 1/4 feet, 1939.

“Murals of local history were at times the special targets of minute criticism. A case in point was Youngstown artist Rolan Schweinburg’s submission of a mural for Eaton. One might think that the citizens would not be so particular about Van Ausdal’s long-vanished store, but the postmaster conveyed a series of objections to the artist. He argued that the Indian girl’s skirt should ‘be shortened to knee length’ and ‘shouldn’t be quite so form fitting.’ The sign should read ‘Furs and Skins’ rather than ‘Furs and Hides.’ As a final remark, the postmaster wrote, ‘Personally I do not think the horse appears quite true to type,’ and he criticized the treatment of both the head and the legs. The mural as installed incorporated several of the recommended revisions.”


 

Fairborn

Wright Brothers in Ohio by Henry Simon.

Oil on canvas, 1941.


 

Georgetown

Tobacco Harvest by Richard C. Zoellner.

Oil on canvas, 6 1/4 x 13 feet, 1938.

“Only a quarter of the artists who prepared murals in Ohio post offices were native to the state. Among them was Richard Zoellner, a native of Portsmouth and former student at the Cincinnati Art Academy, who may have witnessed the annual Brown county tobacco harvest and prepared this familiar scene for the Georgetown Post Office.”


 

Granville

First Pulpit in Granville by Wendell Jones.

Oil on canvas, 1938.


 

Louisville

Farm and Mill by Herschel Levit.

Tempera, 4 1/2 x 14 feet, 1941.

“An explicit statement of the union of interests of the working class appears in Herschel Levit’s mural for Louisville. A Pennsylvania artist who has recently been recognized for his architectural photography, Levit portrayed large, muscular figures who smile and wave to each other as the industrial workers leave for the mill and the farmers attend to their chores.”


 

McConnelsville

Mail – The Connecting Link by Sally F. Haley.

Oil on canvas, 5 x 17 feet, 1938.

“Not unexpectedly, ‘the mail’ was a common theme for new Deal post office murals. Sally Haley, a native of bridgeport, Connecticut, used the subject for McConnelsville, which at the time, despite its status as the Morgan County seat, was a village of less than two thousand people. She wrote that her intent was ‘to picture the mail as one of the means for reaching all parts of our country.’”


 

New Concord

Skaters by Clyde J. Singer.

Oil on canvas, 5 x 12 feet, 1941.

“Hopes for the future, as well as pride in past accomplishments, were symbolized in the several murals depicting education or featuring a local college. Clyde Singer, born and trained in Ohio and working at the Butler Art Institute in Youngstown, found that Muskingum College in New Concord was the center of the town and that winter sports were favored. He painted a scene of ice skaters in the foreground with the college building on the hill behind. In case any stranger should wonder what the building was, he piled schoolbooks and a pencil over the postmaster’s door.”


 

New Lexington

Great Men Came from the Hills by Isabel Bishop.

Oil on canvas, 4 1/4 x 10 3/4 feet, 1938.

“In Isabel Bishop’s mural for New Lexington, historic personages from the town admire their achievements across the valley, where we see the forms and silhouettes of distant buildings. The artist, from New York City, discovered that the townspeople were proud of the distinguished people who came from Perry County. She included a Revolutionary soldier, a governor of Wisconsin, a founder of New Lexington and his grandson, an author of reference books on Ohio, the developer of the coal industry, a senator, a newspaperman, a naturalist, the county’s first historian, and General Sheridan.”


 

New London

New London Facets by Lloyd R. Ney.

Oil on canvas, 5 3/4 x 14 feet, 1940.

“The abstract style employed by Pennsylvania artist Lloyd Ney for his New London mural was unique among Ohio post offices. This was apparently not the result of any inherent dislike of abstract art by Ohioans, but rather from aesthetic prejudice within the Treasury Department’s fine arts section. Only with the help of leading New Londoners was the artist able to convince administrators to approve his original proposal.”


 

Newcomerstown

Men and Machines by Cesare Stea.

Plaster bas-relief, 4 1/4 x 11 1/2 feet, 1939.

“Italian immigrant Cesare Stea of New York City used a powerful pattern of men at work in his relief for Newcomerstown, representing the manufacture of rasps and files. His work is characteristic of the industrial imagery used by New Deal artists throughout the nation.”


 

Orrville

Judge Smith Orr and Robert Taggard Planning the New Settlement of Orrville – 1852 by Aldo Lazzarini.

Oil on canvas, 4 3/4 x 11 1/4 feet, 1937.

“Orrville was founded in the mid-nineteenth century to service the railroad, and a water tank for filling locomotive boilers appears in the background of the mural by Aldo Lazzarini of New York. The frieze of figures in the foreground includes major landowner Robert Taggard, holding the plan, and Judge Smith Orr, for whom the town was named.


 

Portsmouth

Characteristic Local Scenes in Portsmouth, four panel by Clarence H. Carter.

Oil on canvas, 10 x 20 feet, 10 x 8 1/4 feet, , , respectively, 1938.

“Post Office murals usually stereotyped women in scenes of recreation, family life, community, or in sympolic representations of abundance, or marginally in history painting. Rarely are they shown working. An exception was Clarence Carter’s series for Portsmouth. The artist returned from Cleveland, where he was the admistrator at the WPA Fine Arts program, to his hometown to paint a scene with emblems of farming, industry, and transportation in the background. he balanced the male figures of a farmer and riverboat man with those of a farm woman churning butter and another woman working in a shoe factory.”

“Carter’s portrayal of workers heroically pulling together to save Portsmouth from the 1937 flood strongly suggested that such cooperative efforts were the key to escaping Depression woes.”

Coal Barges by Richard Zoellner.

Oil on canvas, 1937.

Waterfront by Richard Zoellner.

Oil on canvas, 1937.


 

Sylvania

Trilobites by Melik Finkle.

Plaster relief, 2 1/2 x 4 3/4 feet, 1940.

“Fossils revealed life from the prehistoric past in the shallow seas that once covered Ohio. The only Section mural or sculpture in the United States devoted to this subject is a relief in Sylvania. Melik Finkle, a Rumanian sculptor and designer living in New York City, showed two men bending over to examine fossils of trilobites. The artist noted that the limestone quarries near Sylvania held ‘about forty different kinds of fossils of prehistoric molusk and froglike reptiles,’ and he decided upon the trilobite because it was the best known.”


 

Tipp City

Construction of Miami-Erie Canal in Miami City by Herman Zimmerman.

Tempera, 1940.


 

Wadsworth

They Came as Wadsworth First Settlers after the War of 1812 by F. Thornton Martin.

Oil on canvas, 1938.


 

Warren

Romance of Steel, Old and Romance of Steel, Modern by Glenn M. Shaw.

Oil on canvas, 7 1/2 x 16 1/8 feet and 6 7/8 x 15 feet, respectively, 1938.

“Like many of his contemporaries, Cleveland artist Glenn Shaw found dramatic inspiration in the grimy environs of the steel mills. For his Warren murals, he used the shapes of the furnaces and the glow of the fires, as well as the postures of the men, to create dramatic compositions.”


 

Willard

The Roundhouse by Mitchell Jamieson.

Oil on canvas, 1941.


 

Yellow Springs

Yellow Springs – Preparation for Lifework by Axel Horn.

Oil on canvas, 1941.


 

{ lmi.state.oh.us/PO_Art.htm }Created October 4, 1995