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"Arrival of the Mail in Culver " Culver Post Office Mural  



< "Arrival of the Mail in Culver " by Jesse Hall (Mrs. Henrick Martin) Mayer Contract was issued 25 May 1937 and had to be completed in 270 calendar days she was first contacted 30 Dec. 1936 about doing it. it was on oil canvas and was paid $500.

The mural is found in A Simple and Vital Design, The Story of the Indiana Post Office Murals by Thomas C. Carlisle Photography by Darryl Jones (1995, Indiana Historical Society)pgs. 30-31:


"Arrival of the Mail in Culver " by Jesse Hall (Mrs. Henrick Martin) Mayer Contract was issued 25 May 1937 and had to be completed in 270 calendar days she was first contacted 30 Dec. 1936 about doing it. it was on oil canvas and was paid $500.

The mural is found in A Simple and Vital Design, The Story of the Indiana Post Office Murals by Thomas C. Carlisle Photography by Darryl Jones (1995, Indiana Historical Society)pgs. 30-31:
    In 1938, with the installation of her mural in Culver , Jessie H ull Mayer began a one-post-office-per-year-sched ule that lasted through 1941, an enviable record by any standard.

    Her first invitation to submit sketches came as the res ult of placing second in the design competition in 1936 for the Lafayette post office, a competition won by her husband Henrik Martin Mayer. Late in 1936 Edward B. Rowan wrote her to asking if she and Henrik were related since they lived at the same address. In what today we night view as a sign of the time, Jessie responded on 5 October:
      Although I regret not winning this job my self, it is perhaps better for the peace of our family that you did not award it to me, because I am Mrs. Henrick Martin Mayer."
    The official letter from the Section inviting Jessie to submit designs for Culver was sent on 30 Decmeber 1936, and on 8 January 1937 she wrote back to washington:
      "The invitation of the Section of Painting and Sc ulpture to submit designs...was the first mail I received in 1937, and will keep me cheered up for the whole year."
    The approved project is unique in the Indiana panoply of murals, for this is the only mural with a central panel flanked by six side panels with related bu sing ular designs. Rather than trying to cram one panel with all the elements important to and appropriate to the Culver area, Mayer chose to show the unity of the major constituents; the townspeople, the farmers, the military aceademy in the middle panel, with the ancillary activities in the side panels. Interesting enough, however the Section had little commentary on the side panels except to suggest once that the color of the central panel could be enlived "by the introduction of some of the reds used in the outer panels.

    In a 13 May letter Rowan did suggest that:
      "it wo uld be a courtesy if you wo uld present four design to the Postmaster in Culver for his comments although the design has been approved in this office."
    This little aside comment focuses on a continuing concern faced by the artists, the Section (and indirectly the staff of the Procurement Division of the Treasury), and the local postmasters; who had the final say over the content and/or acceptability of a painting? ...

    At times in the history of the Section, the onus seemed to be upon the artist to gain approval of the postmaster for the design before they were submitted to Washington, while at others times, such as is the case here, the Section seemed to be saying that the design had been approved, regardless of what the postmaster might have to say. The section's B ulletin in 1939 carried a reprint of an editorial from the Washington Post about this same concern:
      There can be very little that [the Section], through its practice of awarding contracts on the basis of anonymous competition, has been responsible for a great surge of artistic energy in the Nation. It is not merely that it has uncovered American talents in unexpected abundance, and that the work submitted has shown an extraordinary imaginative vitality. The real significance lies in the fat that introduction of these murals into thousands of small post offices is kindling an anesthetic awareness in millions of Americans, just as centuries ago, it was kindled in Italian peasants by the introduction of pieta and of the paintings in the village churches...

      This leads us to the question of whether the national taste is a proper concern of a democratic government. One answer is that great art is as important a form of wealth as great industries. If industry is dependent upon the existence of markets, art is dependent upon the existence of taste. The same logic which permits a government to protect national industries by tariffs or trade treaties might easily justify the development of a national art by appropriate and effective means.
    When the newspaper atricle appeared at the same time of the mural's installation, no one seemed to question the appropriateness of the design. Virginia Moorhead Mannon, writing in the 19 February 1938 edition of the Indianapolis Times, began her commentary of Culver with a reflection upon the mural as part of the decor.
      When the inhabitants of Culver and its environs saunter into their neat little postoffice today they'll find a startling change in the hitherto blank wall pace of the postmaster's door. Adding considerably to the Federal decor is a colorf ul mural depicting "The Arrival of the Mail", the work of Mrs. Henrick Mayer, young Indianapolis artist. Mrs. Mayer, who was commissioned to do the painting as a U. S. Treasury Department project, rolled up the canvas and tool it by truck to Culver yesterday.
    Then Mannon switched to the standard explication provided by a section presse release:
      The mural, which is 10 1/2 feet long and 4 1/2 feet high, consists of a large center panel with smaller panels at either end. The center figures, two-thirds life size, include two cadets reading letters, two postal employees bending over the mail bags, and a farmer and summer residents calling for mail. Six smaller studies picturing activities around the lake - agric ulture, camping, swimming, Culver Military Academy, sailing and riding - represented in the narrow side pannels.

      The coloring of the canvas is designed to blend with the cream-colored wall, the pinky-grey marble wainscotting and dark brown woodwork of the postoffice interiot. The warm gray running through the study harmonizes with the blue-gray of the mailman's attire and the absolute gray of the cadets uniforms...

      "The Arrivial of the Mail": is the first mural painted by the young atrist, who received B.F.A. at Yale in 1932. It represents a year's work with stready painting from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during the past two months.
    Jessie H ull Mayer completed murals for Jasper Indiana - Farming Scene in Late Autumn, in 1929; for Cannon, Missouri - Winter Landscape, in 1940; and for LaGrange Indiana, - The Corn School, in 1941.
    On March 7, 1938, the Culver Postmaster wrote to Washington, D. C., to inform the Section of Fine Arts that Jessie H ull Mayer, an Indianapolis artist, had cemented a 10' x 4' oil painting to the lobby wall of the post office. Tho as evidenced by the article above Mayer actually had placed the mural on the wall three weeks earlier, but the Section commissions were not "officially" completed until the local postal official wrote to confirm that everything was finished

    Carlisle states that the correspondence file on Mayer in the National Archives does not reveal whether she visited Culver or even corresponded with the Postmaster before choosing the content of the mural.

This wo uld be intersting to find out - possibly a quip about the mural, or an article on her possible coming to the local post office for a visit - in the local newspaper - the Culver Citizen, will unviel this unknown fact.

For a more detailed account of the WPA Mural project.






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