The Nebraska Post Office Murals:

A Virtual Field Trip
The Auburn, Nebraska Post Office

Most of the Class "C" or "D" post offices built in small towns during this time period followed the same architectural style both inside and outside. Here is an outside photo of the Auburn, Nebraska post office which houses the mural "Threshing" painted by Ethel Magafan and installed in 1938. Murals usually were displayed over the postmaster's office door.

As you look at the outside and inside shots of the other post offices that house murals, note the similarities in architectural design. The 12 post offices in Nebraska were all built from standardized plans.

The buildings are characterized by a symmetrical five-bay composition, one-story rectangular forms with raised central entrances. The buildings exhibit Georgian Revival, Colonial Revival, and Modernistic architecture details. Exterior walls are brick or concrete with variations in decorative trim and details. Roof shapes include flat, gable, ridge-hipped, or combination. The use of the standardized designs developed by the federal government in the 1930's is apparent in the 12 Nebraska post offices.

"Threshing" by Ethel Magafan (oil on canvas)

Ethel Magafan, the artist who created this mural, studied at Colorado Springs Fine Art Center at the same time as Nebraska muralist Edward Chavez. Her sister Jenne also painted a Nebraska mural for the town of Albion. Ethel was in her early twenties when she painted this mural. Of the program's 850 commissions for murals, only approximately one-sixth were awarded to women and minority artists.

Ethel's mural "Threshing" was readily received by the appreciative Auburn community, unlike many murals by other artists which were openly criticized. In fact, she travelled to Nebraska to do research before painting the mural.

Its theme of depicting local agriculture was very popular. It was said, "A better subject could not have been chosen, for the old threshing machine is rapidly going out of use, and inside of another generation it will be a thing of the past and will stand as a memory of the by-gone days." This oil on canvas mural was pasted to the wall of the post office.

Ms. Magafan went on to do post office murals in Oklahoma and Arkansas and for the U.S. Senate Chamber and the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, D.C. The Section was a big fan of Ms. Magafan's.

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