Mural had roots in Depression era program

This is the third in a series on the Great Depression.

In attempts to reverse the Depression's economic and social woes, President Franklin Roosevelt's administration initiated numerous public work and relief projects under a group of individual programs.

With these opportunities, there were still people who fell outside the net of this government assistance.

In 1933 an artist named George Biddle urged his old school friend FDR to employ artists for a weekly wage to assist them economically.

This project would provide positive images of American life and history as their work would be painted or sculpted on the walls of federal buildings.

When Roosevelt was questioned about this project, his supporters replied: "Artists have to eat just like all other people."

Texas benef ited f rom t his art project. These groups used murals some resulting in painting the history of the areas, some in sculptures made of wood or plaster.

Few of the artists were trained as muralists. A requirement was to create clear and simple designs that average people could relate to and understand.

In the whirlwind of this project, as the work was scattered across the United States, sometimes officials reassigned jobs just out of convenience.

Baytown was originally chosen for a mural, however for bureaucratic reasons, that mural was moved to Rockdale.

The Rockdale Post Office's Mural "Industry in Rockdale" was painted by Maxwell Starr.

Lignite coal was discovered in the area in the 19th Century.

Miners wielding pick and shovels dominated the center of interest on the mural. (This was a mistake by Starr, a New York City native. Lignite isn't dug from the ground with a pick and shovel.)

Behind them are four females dressed in stiff white dresses and bonnets gathering cotton from a field.

A prominent male cotton picker struggles to lift a basket of cotton to his shoulders.

The background of the mural indicates a pecan orchard, a field of corn, a small farm house and a barn rounding out the economic prosperity of this area.

The mural remains today, after 70 years, still telling the history of this area.

Research: "The Texas Post Office Murals" Art for the People: Parisi, Philip 1945, Texas A&M Press.

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