The Ogallala, Nebraska,

Post Office Mural

(Thanks to Dawnell Glunz of Ogallala Public Schools for providing the photos of the Ogallala Post Office and its mural, and to the postmaster of the Ogallala Post Office for providing the brochure that contributed to the text on this page.)


The Ogallala Post Office Building

The Ogallala, Nebraska post office is a one-story concrete Modernistic style building, constructed between 1937-38. Symmetrical in design, the five-bay rectangular building measures 60 X 50 feet.

Ornamental concrete motifs consisting of a plane, locomotive, and ship are set in panels above the main entry door and adjacent window units. The building has two ornamental lamp posts located on either side of the front entry and a flag pole. The lobby interior is in good condition and retains its original tile, floor, wainscotting, and woodwork.

The Mural

The mural, an oil on canvas, entitled "Longhorns" is located on the south lobby wall above the postmaster's door which is flanked by wooden, glass-enclosed bulletin boards. The mural measures 4 ft. by 12 ft.

Painted in muted green, gray, and brown tones, the mural depicts a cowboy driving a herd of longhorns. The cattle occupy almost the entire foreground of the mural with crowded shapes that suggest the enormity of the herd. The artist utilized elongated shapes for the horse and cattle, particularly in the animals' heads which imparts a sense of motion. The cowboy is almost devoid of features which emphasizes the landscape and directs the viewer's gaze into the scene. The broad sweep of the landscape reinforces the sense of the vast plains. The mural was cleaned and restored by an art conservator under contract with the U.S. Postal Service, and it is in excellent condition.

THE ARTIST -- FRANK MECHAU

In April of 1938, Frank Mechau, who was then an instructor at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, received notice from the Section inviting him to submit designs for an Ogallala, Nebraska mural. He was to be paid $670.00 if his sketch was accepted. He was urged by the Section to visit the post office and to develop a subject appropriate to the building or to the Ogallala area. Mechau spent several hours talking to Mari Sandoz, author of "Old Jules", and he learned that Ogallala was the end of the Chisholm Trail "where the trek of the longhorns ended in feeding, dehorning, and shipping."

Mechau also received commissions for post office murals in Texas, Colorado, and for the Post Office Department Building in Washington, D.C. Later as an artist-correspondent for LIFE magazine, he traveled some 20,000 miles during World War II. In 1946, Mechau died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 43.

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