Crystal Springs Tomatropolis: Henry La Cagnina’s Harvest

"Harvest" by Henry La Cagnina. Image used with permission of United States Postal Service.

“Harvest” by Henry La Cagnina. Image used with permission of United States Postal Service.

Crystal Springs, Mississippi was once known as the “Tomatropolis of the World” (and had a big tomato-shaped sign to prove it) and was the largest shipper of tomatoes in the United States (LaTricia M. Nelson-Easley. 2007. Images of America: Copiah County. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing). Apparently, tomatropolis was too difficult to pronounce in recent years, so it was altered to “tomato capital of the world” (Susan M. Enzweiler. (1992). National Register of Historic Places nomination form, Crystal Springs Post Office).

La Cagnina’s “Harvest” was installed in 1943, under the Treasury Bureau Section of Fine Arts program of the New Deal Administration. The rendition is of farm workers and women harvesting and packing tomatoes for shipment. Nelson-Easley’s book includes a number of historic photographs of the actual packing of tomatoes and other vegetables, so it is definitely worth checking out. Tomatoes were wrapped in blue tissue paper (as depicted in the mural) and packed in wooden crates that were built at a factory in Crystal Springs. Apparently, both enterprises contributed to the economy of the community and workers during the 1930s, in a time when many workers were not as fortunate. Vegetables were shipped via train all over the US.

According to La Cagnina, the mural was inappropriately restored when a preservative glaze was applied. He said the glaze gave the mural “black tonality” which altered the “original pearly gray tonality” (Enzweiler). Given the current sad proceedings of selling historic post offices and the uncertainty of the future of these important “people’s art” throughout the US, it at least represents commitment to preservation–so noted by Enzweiler in the nomination form.

Crystal Springs Post Office

The post office is another example of the popular Colonial Revival design used throughout Mississippi and other states during the years of the New Deal construction efforts. Crystal Springs’ example has a feature I don’t recall of other examples, and that is the twin wooden Tuscan columns (Enzweiler) on either side of the doors. The building also features the typical granite steps of this design, along with

…dentilled architrave…cast stone eagle…terrazzo floor…marble wainscoting…wooden vestibule…

seen in this familiar design.

Image used with permission of USPS.

Image used with permission of USPS.

Crystal Springs cornerstone

The building was constructed 1940-41. Here’s a little brain teaser to get you ready for the upcoming post on a Colonial Revival post office in another town. The photographs are enhanced in terms of definitions to show the columns. In one nomination form, the columns are described as Tuscan, and in the other nomination form the columns are described as Doric. While apparently from my limited foray into the difference, Doric can be smooth, though is usually fluted, I find no instances of fluted Tuscan. What am I missing?



Categories: Crystal Springs, New Deal, Post Offices

13 replies

  1. Cyril Harris defined the Tuscan order as a “Simplified version of the Roman Doric order, having a plain frieze and no mutules in the cornice.” The Doric order entry does not mention fluted columns either. So according to Harris the major difference between the two is the make up of their entablatures. I don’t have any other sources to compare definitions with.
    Great post! What a needed mid-morning re-start to my brain.

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  2. What I found was that Roman Doric is smooth, whereas the Greek Doric is fluted. I could not find anything that shows Tuscan as fluted though. Had I known that the Tuscan column/Doric pilaster issue would arise, I would have gone under those awnings and photographed additional detail!

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  3. I also want a Quarter scale model of the Tomatropolis statue.

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  4. I like the word “tomatropolis” – it has a smooth ring to it when pronounced outloud! I definitely want to see this mural! I think it interesting that the tomatoes were grown there, packed there and shipped in crates made there, too! There is nothing better than a tomato grown in that red Mississippi dirt, nothing better! Unless it is a green one that’s been fried! Thank you for a wonderful post!

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    • I do admit to having a bit of fun with sounding it out loud, too! Perhaps they felt it no longer fit with a declining population since a polis is generally a tad bigger than Crystal Springs. You really need to check out Nelson-Easley’s book–the section that is online has great photographs of those things, and a chapter that describes the truck vegetable industry.

      While I have eaten some mighty fine tomatoes grown in Texas dirt, I do confess that the heirloom tomatoes I got at the Taylor, Mississippi farmer’s market were about the most delicious things I ever put in my mouth, short of Mama’s chocolate fudge cake.

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    • I can see why they got rid of “tomatropolis.” It’s a mouthful that doesn’t roll off the tongue. They needn’t have gone the generic “tomato capitol” route, however. They could have devised a more convincing portmanteau: “tomatoropolis” is more literal and has a fluid, yoknapatawphian mouthiness, while “tomopolis” could have been a shorter, less ostentatious, substitute.

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  5. I just wanted to eat those MATERS on white bread with lots of Kraft mayo, salt and pepper. But as a child, I would wipe the dust off one and eat it hot, from the sun, in the garden. Oh, that was Heaven growing up in Rankin County, MS..

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