Many of these murals found in the United States Post Office were painted across the country from 1934 to 1943 and commissioned by the United States Department of the Treasury. One example is found at the Caro Michigan Post Office with the mural; Mail on the Farm. The principal objective was to secure artwork that met high artistic standards for public buildings, where it was accessible to all people. The murals intended to boost the morale of the American people suffering from the effects of the Depression. Each depicts uplifting subjects the local population knew and loved. (1)
Artists were asked to paint in an “American scene” style, realistically depicting ordinary citizens. Artists were also encouraged to produce works that would be appropriate to the communities where they were to be located and to avoid controversial subjects. The Section closely scrutinized projects for style and content, and artists paid only after each stage in the creative process was approved.
Three of these murals have been researched by Gregory Wittkopp, Director, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research. Please follow the link below for a fascinating tale on how these works of art now grace several of our rural post offices.
Mail Matters: Another Michigan Mural – Cranbrook Kitchen Sink
On the eve of World War II, while Americans continued to suffer from the economic fallout of the Great Depression, the United States Treasury …Mail Matters: Another Michigan Mural
This is a repost of content from the Cranbrook Kitchen Sink, that may be of interest to you. (2)
About Artist David Fredenthal
David Fredenthal painted Caro Michigan’s Mail On The Farm in 1941. In his application to the government, Fredenthal noted, “ As Caro is an agricultural district, I have chosen a simple agricultural subject, and have incorporated the idea of mail in it; a letter brought out to the plowman by his wife.” The farmer reading the unknown contents of the letter draws the observer in. “What is in the letter?”
An observation by noted historian Christine M. Nelson Ruby, “The serine bucolic air of Fredenthal’s Caro Post Office murals so pleased the Section officials they did nothing about the lack of correct proportion in the figures, whose massive arms and hands are reminiscent of Thomas Hart Bensons figures.”
Fredenthal was born in Detroit Michigan and studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills. He also painted murals for Detroits Broadhead Academy and for the Post office in Manistique. Afterward, during World War II he was assigned to the South Pacific as a war correspondent and covered the defeat of Germany. Working for Life Magazine, Fredenthal covered the Nuremberg trials after the war. (3)
Sources for Mail On The Farm
(1) “List of United States Post Office Murals.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Aug. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_post_office_murals.
(2) Julie Montgomery on August 7. “Mail Matters: Another Michigan Mural.” Cranbrook Kitchen Sink, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, 7 Aug. 2020, cranbrookkitchensink.wordpress.com/2020/08/07/mail-matters-another-michigan-mural/.
(3) “Postal works of art: in some Michigan post offices customers can buy stamps, mail packages and enjoy distinct works of art.”, Michigan History Magazine, (Vol. 90, Issue 2), Publisher: the State of Michigan, through its State Administrative Board and Department of History, Arts and Libraries.