As a part of the New Deal that offered hope during the Great Depression, scores of public art projects were commissioned. Now they are among the most enduring visual legacies of that era. Geneva was chosen to receive one of 12 post office murals in Nebraska. Nebraska’s Post Office Murals: Born of the Depression, Fostered by the New Deal is a new book from the Nebraska State Historical Society that presents the story of these valuable historical pieces.
Richly illustrated with photographs and never-before-published artists’ sketches, the book reveals the personalities, conflicts, and spirit of the times from which the art emerged. Each of the artists commissioned to do the murals had a background story, and author Robert Puschendorf follows the journey of each mural to its completion.
The mural installed in Geneva, depicts a group of men constructing a sod house, while a woman and child look on. The painter, Edward Chavez, travelled to Geneva after being hired to brainstorm for subject matter, and decided on this very accurate portrayal of sod house construction. After the installation of the mural, the post office custodian remarked: “I have received from the public many favorable comments on the mural…as a fine addition to the decorations of the building.”
The book contains color foldouts of each work, displaying the detail of the U.S. Treasury Department’s post office mural program in Nebraska. Bill Ganzel, author of Dust Bowl Descent, had this to say about Nebraska’s Post Office Murals: “Across Nebraska, small town post offices still house gems of regional art. This book brings these murals to a larger audience. This is a fascinating and enlightening exploration of a beauty in the midst of hard times.”
Author Robert Puschendorf, NSHS associate director and the deputy state historic preservation officer, spent years researching the book. With James E. Potter he is the co-author of the Nebraska Book Award-winning Spans in Time: A History of Nebraska Bridges, and has published numerous historical articles.