Filed Under Linden, Texas

Linden Post Office and Its New Deal Mural

Founded in 1852, Linden is one of the oldest cities in Northeast Texas. Linden's unique musical history and culture is represented by the Music City Texas Theater. The city has also been home to many notable and talented artists including composer and pianist Scott Joplin, blues guitarist Aaron "T-Bone" Walker, as well as singer-songwriter and Eagles drummer, Don Henley. Yet, before it was known for its talented musicians and artists, Linden was best known for its industries, possessing multiple lumber, planing, and syrup mills. According to Claudia Hazlewood, Linden's first post office opened in 1852, and by 1885, the town's population reached nearly three hundred people, consisting of "two churches, a district school, two sawmills, and a number of general stores". In the early 20th century, Linden experienced a boom in farming, lumber and oil. In 1937, the Linden Post Office opened at 200 East Rush Street. Construction of the Linden Post Office was funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA). The post office's construction team included architect Louis A. Simon and engineer Neal Merlick.

In 1939, Russian artist Victor Arnautoff painted the mural "Cotton Pickers," which was eventually hung in the lobby of the Linden Post Office. "Cotton Pickers" explores the history of African American farmers and sharecroppers in East Texas. The mural features five African American farmers; one woman works shoeless, while another woman appears to gaze up at the landowner's impressive house on the hill. This fascinating mural captures the hardships and sacrifices of African American East Texas cotton pickers as they endured the harsh realities of agrarian society in the Jim Crow South during the early 20th century America.

Born in 1896 in Mariupol, Russia, Victor Mikhail Arnautoff studied art in his village's gymnasium. After serving as a cavalry officer for Czar Nicholas II's army in World War I, Arnautoff traveled to Harbin to study at the Lotus Art School. In 1925, Arnautoff immigrated to the United States and studied at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. After completing his studies in San Francisco, Arnautoff traveled to Mexico to train with the renowned painter Diego Rivera and to learn how to paint large public murals. In 1931, Arnautoff returned to San Francisco and opened up his own studio. In 1938, Arnautoff began teaching art at Stanford University. While in San Francisco, he painted murals for the Palo Alto Medical Clinic and the Coit Tower. The WPA commissioned Arnautoff to paint fresco murals for federal buildings in California and Texas. In all, Arnautoff painted murals for five post offices in Texas, including Linden. Arnautoff retired from Stanford in 1962, and two years later, moved back to Russia, continuing his work on large public murals until his death near Leningrad in 1979.

Images

Linden Post Office
Linden Post Office Exterior view of the Linden Post Office taken from East Rush Street. Source: Jordan McAllister
Linden Post Office Plaque
Linden Post Office Plaque A plaque documents the officials involved with the construction of the Linden Post Office in 1937. Source: Jordan McAllister
Victor Arnautoff
Victor Arnautoff Muralist Victor Arnautoff painted this self-portrait in 1941. Source: Victor Arnautoff
Linden Post Office Mural
Linden Post Office Mural Victor Arnautoff painted "Cotton Pickers" in 1939. Source: Jeffrey L. Littlejohn
Linden Post Office Mural Detail
Linden Post Office Mural Detail This detailed view of "Cotton Pickers" shows one worker's bare feet. Source: Jeffrey L. Littlejohn
Detail of Linden Post Office Mural
Detail of Linden Post Office Mural This close-up view of Victor Arnautoff's mural shows a worker looking toward the land owner's home on a hill. Source: Jeffrey L. Littlejohn

Location

Metadata

Matt Carmichael, “Linden Post Office and Its New Deal Mural,” East Texas History, accessed May 26, 2024, https://easttexashistory.org/items/show/95.