Swanson Elementary School

December 5, 2000

Students of Dede Marshall's third grade class conduct an eSchool chat with Virginia Mecklenberg, a curator with the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Student questions are posted using the eSchool account of Steve Bross.

Steve Bross: Good morning, Virginia. This is Dennis Hansen who will be typing for the students this morning.

The account name is Steve Bross, however!

Virginia Mecklenberg: I'm glad to meet you all. Would you like to look at some pictures this morning?

Steve Bross: The students will be here soon!

Virginia Mecklenberg: ok, let me know when they are ready.

Steve Bross: Hey, the just arrived! Their names are Freddie and Molly.

Steve Bross: The first question is: How long did it take to do an average mural?

Virginia Mecklenberg: Hi, Freddy and Molly. Do you ever go to the post office with your mom and dad?

Steve Bross: Yes

Virginia Mecklenberg: It usually took about 2 months to paint a mural and the artists got paid about $700.

Virginia Mecklenberg: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1974/1974.28.15_1b.jpg

Virginia Mecklenberg: If you scroll down, you will see what the end wall of a post office looked like with some


Steve Bross: We have received some images.

Steve Bross: Where is this mural located?

Virginia Mecklenberg: This is a picture of the little planning sketch Harry Freund made to show his ideas for a

post office in Missouri. It will give you an idea of what the murals are like.

Virginia Mecklenberg: Lots of the artists like to paint pictures from history. In a minute I'll send a picture of

the Liberty Bell and tell you a little story.

Virginia Mecklenberg: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1974/1974.28.2_1b.jpg

Steve Bross: Do you know what the names of the murals in Red Cloud, NE are? You can answer later.

Steve Bross: Is it located in Philadelpha, PA?

Virginia Mecklenberg: A man named Gifford Beal painted this picture for the post office in Allentown,

Pennsylvania. more than 200 years ago the British soldiers were about to capture the city of Philadelphia,

so the Americans packed up the liberty bell and moved it to Allentown and hid it in a church. They thought

the Americans would be discouraged if their enemies captured the Liberty Bell.

Steve Bross: How far would that be to move it?

Virginia Mecklenberg: The murals in Red Cloud, Nebraska are by Archie Musick. They are called Stockade

Builders and Moving Westward. I'm sorry I don't have the pictures loaded up, but we will do it for our next


Virginia Mecklenberg: The soldiers had to move the Liberty Bell about 150 miles. It was pretty far for horses

and a wagon.

Virginia Mecklenberg: Have you ever been to Valentine, Nebraska?

Steve Bross: No, but our principal has and she is here with us today.

Virginia Mecklenberg: Great! I'll load a picture of Kady Faulkner's mural.

Virginia Mecklenberg: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1974/1974.28.14_1b.jpg

Virginia Mecklenberg: Does this look familiar? It's called the "End of the Line."

Steve Bross: the image failed to load. Can you load it again?

Virginia Mecklenberg: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1974/1974.28.14_1b.jpg

Virginia Mecklenberg: Did it load?

Steve Bross: YES, thanks!

Steve Bross: We looked at it in class recently. The one we looked had brands at the bottom

Virginia Mecklenberg: Kady Faulkner showed Valentine back in the days of the settlers (the 1880s and

1890s), when the railroad tracks ended in Valentine. all the settlers came to collect goods that the train

brought from the south and east.

Virginia Mecklenberg: The picture I'm showing you is actually a small scale model of the big mural. The artist

hadn't put in the brands yet. Think it looks better with the brands?

Steve Bross: Yes because we know about brands and how important they are. However, the main picture is

very helpful in knowing about the reality of the times

Virginia Mecklenberg: Can you imagine what it would be like to have to go to town from the farm to pick up your

food in big boxes and barrels? Whew! what a job!

Steve Bross: We are glad there are grocery stores and cars now!

Virginia Mecklenberg: Would you like to see a small scale model of the mural for Pawnee City, Nebraska?

Steve Bross: Yes. That is not far from our city

Virginia Mecklenberg: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1974/1974.28.3_1b.jpg

Virginia Mecklenberg: Oops! This is another from Pennsuylvania--I'll get the right one in a sec.

Virginia Mecklenberg: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1982/1982.86.3_1b.jpg

Steve Bross: sorry, need to reload again

Virginia Mecklenberg: This is a picture of a cattle auction. Can you see the white splotch in the middle? It's

where the paint came off. We found this picture (it's about 6 inches tall about about 14 inches wide) in a

trash bin. Needless to say, it had some problems.

Virginia Mecklenberg: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1982/1982.86.3_1b.jpg

Virginia Mecklenberg: Did it load this time?

Steve Bross: no, sorry

Virginia Mecklenberg: Phooey. I'll try it one more time and if it doesn't work, we can look at something else.

Steve Bross: Thanks

Virginia Mecklenberg: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1982/1982.86.3_1b.jpg

Virginia Mecklenberg: here it is

Steve Bross: Now we have it!!Yes we see the white spot. You were lucky to be able to save it

Virginia Mecklenberg: Do you know if the mural is still in the post office in Pawnee City?

Steve Bross: Thanks for showing us these pictures we have to go and another group will be here in a few


Virginia Mecklenberg: By! It's been nice chatting with you.

Steve Bross: Yes the mural is still there!

Virginia Mecklenberg: Great!

Steve Bross: We have Elisabeth and Joe with us now!

Virginia Mecklenberg: Hi Elisabeth and Joe. My name is Virginia.

Virginia Mecklenberg: The picture you can see is a little model for a mural in the post office in Pawnee City.

I'm glad to know from your friends that the big one is still in the post office. Have you ever seen it?

Steve Bross: We are still looking at the small mural you sent. the question is: What is the setting for the

picture and what are the people doing

Virginia Mecklenberg: The setting is Pawnee City in the olden days. They are having a horse and cattle

auction. Lots of people came to town from farms in the area to buy and sell animals. it was a pretty big deal

then---sort of like a festival because you got to see all your friends.

Steve Bross: Wow! We didn't know that. Thanks!

Virginia Mecklenberg: I like the part in the middle with the baby cow. Do you see the white splotch in the

middle? It's where the paint came off. For a long time people didn't pay any attention to murals and the little

models and someone threw this in the trash. The people here at the Smithsonian found it and saved it.

Steve Bross: We have a question: What is the medium used to paint this mural

Virginia Mecklenberg: One of these days the conservators (the people who fix paintings) will be able to clean

this up and fill in the part that's missing. It is oil on cardboard and has a layer of varnish on top. The varnish

turned yellow, so that's what makes it look so dark.

Steve Bross: Do you have another mural to show us?

Virginia Mecklenberg: Yes. http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1974/1974.28.98_1bjpg

Virginia Mecklenberg: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1974/1974.28.98_1b.jpg

Virginia Mecklenberg: This is another festival---it looks happier than the other one because it has already

been cleaned. It is by a lady named Dorothy Mierisch. it shows, if you can believe this, the first time mail

was sent by plane. It was in Mcleansboro, Illinois and took place in 1912, just 9 years after the Wright

brothers first flew a plane.

Virginia Mecklenberg: Can you imagine a time when airplanes weren't flying all over the place? or sending a

letter and having it go by train?

Steve Bross: Neat! And in our area it was sent by Pony Express!

Virginia Mecklenberg: It must have been a big deal to see the p lane. Can you see the balloons and over at

the right there's a ferris wheel?

Steve Bross: What is the gray area in front of the speaker?

Steve Bross: This is cool!!!

Virginia Mecklenberg: The gray area is the space where the door to the post master's office would be.

Remember this is a little model. The artist painted the small version first so she could figure out where to put

everything. The finished mural went at the top of the wall, just below the ceiling, so she left it gray.

Sometimes the artists show the doorway. I'll show you something like this in a minute.

Steve Bross: Joe would like to be the pilot!

Virginia Mecklenberg: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1974/1974.28.15_1b.jpg

Virginia Mecklenberg: I'm with Joe. I have a friend who flies old timey planes like that. One of these days I

hope he will take me for a ride. Look at the painting below. Here the artist (Mr. Freund) shows where his

murals would be above a door and some bulletin boards.

Virginia Mecklenberg: Can you see the picture?

Steve Bross: yes

Steve Bross: Where is this mural located

Virginia Mecklenberg: It's in Windsor, Missouri. Or at least it was. I'm not sure if it's still there or not. I

haven't been to Windsor.

Virginia Mecklenberg: The thing that's cool is that lots of murals are still there, even though they were painted

about 60 years ago.

Steve Bross: Joe says, "My favorite mural is 'Waiting for the Mail'". In that mural, what is the dog looking at?

(If you have a picture of that mural)

Virginia Mecklenberg: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1974/1974.28.29_1b.jpg

Steve Bross: Is this a river in the West?

Virginia Mecklenberg: How about one last picture. This one shows the Dickson Family who came to

Tuscumbia, Alabama. In the boat you can see the mom, baby, brothers, and dad. On the shore is Chief

Tuscumbia and two of his people. They welcomed the settlers and gave them land in Georgia.

Steve Bross: The indians were very generous!!

Virginia Mecklenberg: Yes they were. And the settlers traded with the Indians and benefited greatly.

Steve Bross: Elisabeth has a question: In the mural 'Rural Highway' is the house a real house or just an

artists conception?

Virginia Mecklenberg: I'm not sure which mural that is, but it's probably a real house. Everyone liked to show

things just as they were so people wouldn't think the artists were making things up.

Virginia Mecklenberg: Joe and Elisabeth, do either of you like to paint?

Steve Bross: They both do, but Joe doesn't think he is good at it!

Virginia Mecklenberg: I'll bet he's better than he thinks!

Steve Bross: I suppose it just takes practice, practice and more practice!!

Virginia Mecklenberg: I think so. Though I can't paint very well either. But I get to work with other people's

paintings every day. It

Virginia Mecklenberg: oops again. It's a great job to be able to look at pictures and talk with you all.

Steve Bross: Joe and Elizabeth have to go. They both THANK YOU VERY MUCH for your time and knowing

so much about these special paintings. Goodbye

Virginia Mecklenberg: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1974/1974.28.134_1b.jpg

Virginia Mecklenberg: This is another of my favorites. It's in Jaackson Missouri.

Steve Bross: They did see the image on their way out. This is very familiar to us in Nebraska too!

Virginia Mecklenberg: You can see the doorway in this one, too, or at least where it would be below the


Virginia Mecklenberg: It's been nice chatting with you. I'd love to hear how it works for the students. We have

lots of great paintings and sculpture here, so I hope we can do this again.

Steve Bross: So long! We really enjoyed this! Thank you so much!


Return to the Chat Home Page