The St. Joseph, Missouri Post Office Murals

St. Joseph, Missouri's post office is located downtown. Here's a photo!

Once inside the post office, the murals are found on panels located on the north and south walls. There are 12 murals total depicting the history of this river community.

The murals were done by artist Gustaf Dalstrom who did several other murals in other states.

In fact, while Dalstrom was painting the mural, the director of art for the St. Joseph public schools mimeographed a three-page form about the artist and the paintings, including a list of questions, and classes came to the post office to study the murals and hear a brief discussion of them by the artist!

Here are the 12 murals:

The next panel (pictured below) caused quite a controversy in St. Joseph when it was reproduced in the local newspaper in 1941. The panel, entitled "Negro River Music", angered a well-organized group of blacks in St. Joseph who sent a protest to the postmaster about the scene.

The spokesman was a local pastor who complained that the panel "tends to portray member of their race as a lazy people with no other thoughts than singing, dancing, and clowning."

Dalstrom met with the delegation and claimed that he did not intend to ridicule blacks. He told them, "Stephen Foster used the negro spirituals as inspiration for his many negro ballads which have become so dear to the American public. They are actually a prt of the cultural development of this country. I think it something of which you ought to be proud."

Eleven groups, including the NAACP, wrote letters to the paper suggesting that Dalstrom should have portrayed blacks such as George Washington Carver or "countless others that not only would be a credit to the race, but would contain great historical value."

The federal government, in particular the Section, did not give way to the pressure exerted by these groups. The panel was allowed to remain, and is there to this day. This was the only protest by blacks about their depiction in a mural. This controversy would be an interesting one to pose to students today and see what they think should have been done.

Here is the controversial panel:

(Thanks to the kind custodian who unlocked the doors on a Sunday morning for me to obtain these photos!)