Electrification, Lenoir City, Tennessee Post Office.

United States Postal Service

Used with permission of United States Postal Service

David Stone Martin’s 1940 mural, Electrification, was one of the 48 state post office mural competitions.  The tempura on cardboard mural reflected the transformation of the rural south due to the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Rural Electrification Administration efforts during the Great Depression.  The building of Fort Loudon dam nearby was one of the sources of the electricity harnessed from the rivers of Tennessee.  Nine of every ten farms in Tennessee during the early 1930s had no electricity.

One of the New Deal’s major achievements was bringing electrical power to rural parts of the country and this success was most vividly demonstrated in the Tennessee River Valley.  Through the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the federal government built a series of huge hydroelectric dams to provide power to the countryside.  Artist David Stone Martin memorialized this accomplishment his mural for the post office in Lenoir, Tennessee. (A New Deal for the Arts: The National Archives.  Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/new_deal_for_the_arts/work_pays_america.html)

Purcell called the Lenoir City post office (and its “merely hint at Colonial Revival Style”):

one of the state’s most unadorned New Deal buildings as far as architectural style. (A. D. Purcell, 2009, White collar radicals: TVA’s Knoxville Fifteen, the New Deal, and the McCarthy Era. Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press.)

Perhaps it is indeed “unadorned” but one important fact remains: Lenoir City has seen the importance of not only preserving the post office and Martin’s mural, but of continuing to utilize it as the town’s post office, and keeping the art intended for the people of the community available for the community.

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5 Responses to Electrification, Lenoir City, Tennessee Post Office.

  1. socialbridge says:

    A fascinating post, Suz. Great to see that the mural and building are so well appreciated.

    • Suzassippi says:

      Thanks, Jean. I do love the New Deal post offices that were constructed throughout the country, and many of them do have murals. Rural electrification meant so much to both of my grandparents–whose access to electricity consisted of a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling with a pull string, and it had one socket on the connector. Of course, since one did not have electricity, neither did one have appliances that required it. 🙂 She ironed with an iron heated by kerosene.

      • socialbridge says:

        Suz, same here with my maternal grandmother. We take electricity so much for granted now but I used to love going to stay with her and having lanterns at night and sitting by her big stove.

  2. Susan Lentz says:

    Thanks for posting this beauty – I love love love to come across one of these murals!

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