The 48 States Competition (1939)
The following information is quoted from "New Deal Art in Alabama Post Offices and Federal Buildings" Alabama Moments in History (at http://www.alabamamoments.state.al.us/sec49det.html):
The Treasury Section of Fine Arts was established in October of 1934. It was to be a companion to the construction of federal buildings, which came under the Treasury Department at the time. Originally 1% of the cost of any new federal structure was to be set aside for the decoration of the structure, an arrangement which never worked. The two most common structures built under the New Deal were post offices and courthouses. In the end not all the buildings constructed during this period received decoration.
The standard New Deal post office carried a decorative allotment of $650-750, covering a space about twelve by five feet above the postmaster's door. The courthouses, larger and more costly, could pay a commission of $3,000 and covered much more extensive surfaces. From the allotted funds the artist was required to purchase all the necessary supplies and pay the costs of installation and photographs. Payment to the artist came in three installments: when the initial sketch was approved, when a scale drawing was approved, and when the final panel was verified as in-place by the local postmaster. Although the Section remained committed to many of its original ideals (to produce high quality art for small-town America, to use local talent whenever possible, and to encourage local participation) they soon realized that anonymous competitions were too difficult for the small post office commissions.
The largest competition undertaken by the Section, the 48 States Competition, was in 1939. Over 3,000 entries were judged and the winning entries were placed in one post office in each state. The winner for Alabama was the mural by Robert Gwathmey in Eutaw, although his submitted sketch was actually for his home state of Virginia. The winners of the 48 States Competition were exhibited around the country and then shown in Life magazine in December of 1939.
The winners of the 48 States Competition from Life Magazine, December 4, 1939, pp. 12-13:
|De Funiak Springs||Florida|
|Great Falls||Montana||The Great Falls MT mural was placed in the Post Office at Glasgow, MT. The citizens of Great Falls took an "immediate dislike" for the mural. - information from Jimmy Emerson|
|Hot Springs||New Mexico|
|New Rockford||North Dakota|
|Westerley||Rhode Island||Westerly RI evidently had sketches made by 4 separate artists, but a mural was never commissioned nor installed. Information from Jimmy Emerson|
|Island Pond||Vermont||Island Pond VT never had a mural placed, sketches were made but the office was "lost in limbo of appropriations contingencies". - information from Jimmy Emerson|
Pdf (3.88 MB) b&w copy of Life article
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