Rural Mississippi–From Early Days to Present

"Rural Mississippi--From Early Days to Present"Image used with permission of United States Postal Service

“Rural Mississippi–From Early Days to Present”

The mural by Lucile Blanch in the Tylertown post office can claim something that few other post offices can.  Not only did the artist (also known as Lucille Blanch, Lucile Lunquist Blanch, Lucile Lundquist-Blanch,  and Lucille Lundquist-Blanch) actually paint the mural in the same town for which the work was commissioned,

She took great pleasure in talking to townsfolk about the progress of the painting, and they, in turn, enjoyed seeing places they knew develop in the work. (Deborah Purnell, UM Quest, Fall 2004)

Blanch’s work was a fresco painted directly onto the wall, rather than on a canvas and later installed, as were most of the post office murals.

Image used with permission of USPS

The mural was completed in 1941.  Blanch was born in Hawley, Minnesota in 1895, received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1933, and died in New York in 1981 (John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; Smithsonian American Art Museum).  Hawley is a small town on the Buffalo River, so perhaps Tylertown, Mississippi was not that much of an adjustment for a 46 year old artist who had done a bit of traveling by then.

Image used with permission USPS

Check out the dapper angle of the gent’s hat as they walk into “the present.”  Yes, back then, no well-dressed gentleman would leave home without his hat, but he looks like he might be about to break into song and dance any second and give those “black-and-white spectators” some real action.

Image used with permission USPS

And, once again, I will throw out my gripe about the post offices around the country who installed light fixtures on these works of art.

Blanch’s work was one of the murals commissioned by the Treasury Section of Fine Arts, under the New Deal Administration.  The 1940 Colonial Revival post office was built by Dye & Mullings of Columbia and Hattiesburg (Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Historic Resources Inventory database).  It was one of 5 Mississippi post offices constructed by the firm between 1931-1940, with Tylertown being the last one.  You’ll recognize it: it looks just like all the other Colonial Revival post offices in this part of the state.

All images used with permission of the United States Postal Service.



Categories: Historic Preservation, Post Offices, Tylertown

17 replies

  1. I love this series—these are treasures I hope are never lost. They depict an important part of our history and this lady was an extremely talented painter with a special gift. Thank you for sharing these since I will never be able to go see them in person.

  2. i like her composition. i didn’t realize the light fixture problem was so prevalent–it’s really shocking that people do things like that. this isn’t even a decent light fixture. thanks for mural sleuthing suzassippi.

    • If I recall correctly, you are the one who started me down this trail! :) I have been amazed at the number of light fixtures that have been installed on the murals. You’d think a simple sconce to the side of the bulletin board–or on the frame of the bulletin board if a light was that necessary–would do. Quite a few of them also have hanging ceiling fixtures (those unattractive florescent boxes) that obscure the view of the mural. Maybe I’ll do a series on “worst postal lighting solutions.”

  3. That church is China Grove Methodist Church, located over toward Kokomo and listed on the National Register: https://www.apps.mdah.ms.gov/nom/prop/21339.pdf

    She clearly did her homework into the local and even county scenes, much more than many of the other artists we’ve seen.

  4. Now there is another series in the making!

  5. Thanks for another mural! I’ve been amusing myself reading the Living New Deal entries and I am continually amazed at the uniqueness of each mural as well as the stories that are available. I hope you are going to write a book…hint, hint!

  6. Be careful what you wish for. Back in 2012 the Columbus Post Office Mural became a cause celebre for Steffan Tubbs, Editor Birney Imes and Ira Lanier. Lanier , whose parents are buried in Columbus, penned a Letter To the Editor of the Commercial-Dispatch in which he cites details of his efforts to have the mural taken down. He even wrote a poem Mural On the Wall. Letters were sent to the US Postmaster General, Morris Dees, the ACLU, etal. Tubbs was able to wring out a lotta’ publicity for a book that he was about to publish on the life of Lanier. Tubbs returned to Columbus with his TV cameras, Lanier and a priest in tow, praying at Lanier’s family cemetery plot. I suspect that Tubbs is also the author of the mural “poem.”

    http://www.cdispatch.com/news/article.asp?aid=9619&TRID=1&TID=

  7. I think that Tubbs and Lanier are a bit confused on Manifest Destiny–the Union campaign of territorial conquest to exterminate the Plains Indians. And if my memory is correct, it was about the time that Tubbs wa promoting his Lanier book that locals in Colorado stole a stone moument that was erected by the historical society;the marker documented one of the many massacres carried out by Colorado militias. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek mural in Macon shows the peaceful way of territorial conquest. But then the Plains Indians were not part of the co-called “Five Civilized Nations.”

    MURAL, MURAL, on the WALL

    High on the post office wall
    They hung you decades ago.
    What did the artist see?
    “Darkies in the cotton field,
    Staying true to their “Manifest Destiny”.

    Some looked upon you
    With righteous thoughts and approval.
    Others looked, as if into a mirror,
    And saw a different scene.
    They said, “I feel for you.”

    You seem powerless and voiceless.
    Your bowed head and servile smile
    hides your pain and agony.
    Keep your spirits high.
    Bend your head, pull that sack.
    Put one foot forward, then the other.
    One more day; one more aching back.

    Despair comes; hopelessness fills your heart.
    “Do this for the ones that come
    after me,” you think.
    Somehow, this gives you strength.
    You hear change is about to come.
    But when? So you wait patiently.

    One day, a small boy came by,
    Looked up at you and wondered at the sight
    Of people who could be his ancestors.
    Toiling in a field in the hot sun.
    Was this his future? Was this his plight?

    As the winds of change came,
    You became invisible.
    “Can’t you see me anymore?
    Don’t you care about me?
    Who will bring me down?
    Who will tell my story, you ask?”

    By chance, a man walks in;
    No longer a frightened boy.
    He saw you anew, and then he knew,
    he was chosen.
    “I see you”, he said, “I really do.
    The winds of change have changed my life.”

    But, it’s really about you.
    I stood on your shoulders,
    And lived your dreams.
    I have heard your deafening cry.
    I’ll bring you down and, this time, I will tell your story.”

    Ira LaNier
    For Reese, my granddaughter
    January 23, 2011

  8. What a . . . fascinating work of poetry(!), thanks for sharing.

    And this poem comment was our 7,000th comment on MissPres, so congrats!

  9. I think one of my favorite things about Preservation in Mississippi is both the acceptance of a variety of views, as well as the willingness to “pull back the covers” on things we are reluctant to discuss. (I need to give credit here to my friend DJM who has helped me see things from a different perspective). I think we have often discounted history from the perspective of those we “other” and I appreciate more and more the opportunity to hear those perspectives that have been omitted from the dialogue.

  10. The (Indian) marker that was looted from the Civil War monument in front of the Colorado State Capitol commmerated the Sand Creek Massacre led by Union Army Colonel John Chivington, who was also a methodist minister, freemason and abolitionist.

    http://www.fusioncash.net/forum.php?topic=16144.0

  11. Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek mural in Macon Post Office.

    http://pinterest.com/pin/4433299603099323/

  12. One more comment on the Out of the Soil mural in Columbus. NYC native Ms. Bettersworth received unwarranted criticism on one particular detail in her painting:The depiction of “Shave-tail” mules. A critic claimed that the mule had been given a “cow’s tail.” Not so! Mules in training were subject to shaved tails so as to distinguish them from a seasoned, trained mule.;thus the deragotary term for the newly US Army OCS graduate:A shaved-tail second Lieutenant. Also, shaving the tails of mules working in cocklebur-infested fields kept the pesky cockleburs from getting a free ride.

  13. This is “my” Post Office. Every day I’m amazed that this mural remains so vibrant after 73 years.
    The painting looks as if it had been freshly applied last week.

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