Did you ever stop to admire these murals?
The historic post office in Wildwood, New Jersey was constructed with federal Treasury Department funds. The building, which was completed in 1936, houses “New Deal artwork” inside.
In the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised a “new deal for the American people.” That new deal took the form of groundbreaking federal policies that put millions of Americans back to work.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal sponsored several Art programs to help get people back to work and restore confidence in a nation facing 25% unemployment in 1933.
From 1934 to 1943, the New Deal murals and sculptures seen in Post Offices were produced under the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture, later called the Section of Fine Arts. Unlike the Works Progress Administration/Federal Art Project, with which it often is confused, this program was not directed toward providing economic relief.
Instead, the art placed in Post Offices was intended to help boost the morale of people suffering the effects of the Great Depression with art that, in the words of President Roosevelt, was: native, human, eager and alive —all of it painted by their own kind in their own country, and painted about things they know and look at often and have touched and loved.
Artists competed anonymously in national and regional contests. Runners-up often received commissions for smaller buildings. After receiving a commission, an artist was encouraged to consult with the Postmaster and other townspeople to ensure that the subject would be meaningful.
More than 1,000 Post Offices nationwide continue to house this uniquely American art.
Above Murals painted in 1935
“Activities of the Fishing Fleet”
by Artist Dennis Burlingame 1901-1964.
A scholar of both history and art, Dennis was a self-taught artist with oils as his main medium. As part of the *WPA Art program, he was awardawarded a commission for the Wildwood, New Jersey Post Office in 1934, and Burlingame completed his two mural panels in 1935.
Burlingame once worked for Walt Disney’s studios in New York City as an artist, and he briefly shared an apartment with Jackson Pollock in Greenwich Village. His later years found his style moving from landscapes into abstract painting. His last residence was Brooklyn, New York, where he died in 1964.
(Newly opened Wildwood Post Office, 1936)