The Dover Delaware Post Office Mural: Harvest, Spring and Summer

References: The line drawing of the Dover Post Office, located in Dover, Delaware and the black-and-white mural studies come from Art in Federal Buildings, Volume I: Mural Designs, 1936-1936, Edward Bruce & Forbes Watson, Art in Federal Buildings Incorporated, Washington, D. C., 1936. The color studies depicting “Spring” and “Summer” were transferred in 1974 by the General Services Administration (GSA) to the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection.

Two sections of the original oil painting mural remain in sito: “Summer” and “Harvest.” In 1967 the Dover Post Office became the property of the Wesley United Methodist Church. The section depicting “Spring” was destroyed during subsequent renovations.

Photographs of the Dover Post Office mural are used with permission of the United States Postal Service, All rights reserved.

1228 Summer Harvest-Web.jpgArt Federal Bldgs Study-Web.jpgHarvest Dover PO-Web.jpgHarvest Study Web.jpgLine Sketch Mural-Web.jpgSpring SmithsonianWeb.jpgSpring Study-Web.jpgSummer SmithsonianWeb.jpgSummer Study-web.jpg1223 Dover PO Summer-Web.jpg

An article on page 6 of the September 9, 1936 issue of the Sunday Star (Wilmington, Delaware newspaper 1881-1954),
when White was age 40, reads as follows:

New Dover Post Office Murals Portray Phases of 

Kent County Life

 

W.D. White, Local Artist, Winning Wide Acclaim in Wall

Decoration; Huge Panels Symbolic of Farm and Industry

c48-WD White 9-6-1936 Web.jpg

The saga of the life and industries of Kent County is depicted in the mural being prepared for the Dover Post Office by William D. White, of Carcroft, near Wilmington.

Mr. White is one of the many artists throughout the nation contributing his talent towards the decoration of post office buildings,working for the United States Treasury Department’s Relief Art Project.

Murals are no stranger to this well known Delaware artist. Under the Civil Works Administration, he did some fine work for the U. S. Veterans’ Hospital in Coatesville, Pa., and has decorated private homes. His specialty, however, has been illustrating and his work has appeared in many magazines. He has illustrated several books, chiefly biographies.

More recently he has attracted widespread attention by his drawings and portraits of children, catching them in delightfully informal poses.

Mr. White is a native of Delaware, and was born in Wilmington. He is a veteran of the World War, having served in the army. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and is a familiar figure about Delaware. His principle enjoyment is hiking about the countryside, recording his impressions of some character he meets, or an old house or barn.

The Dover Post Offive mural, now nearly finished, is in three sections and depicts the life and industries of Kent County.

Spring 18x10 75.jpg

Author Note: The two images depicted above presented a perplexing puzzle. On the right is a photo from William D. White’s personal effects, which I had always understood to be part of the Dover Post Office TRAP commission of 1936. When I viewed the actual mural in the building owned by the Wesley United Methodist Church, this section was missing, destroyed during rennovations soon after the building was purchased in 1967. The church evidently did not record the mural prior to it’s destruction, as no records exist in the church archives. Worse, none of the church members remembers the mural, nor have I been able to find any newspaper reference to the mural, except the article reprinted above.

During my research into the Dover Post Office mural, I discovered two pieces of evidence depicting the image seen above left: the black-and-white mural studies from Art in Federal Buildings, Volume I: Mural Designs, 1936-1936  and the color study transferred in 1974 by the General Services Administration (GSA) to the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection. It would seem this image with the tractor was the original design for the now missing section of mural depicting “Spring.” However, I must now conclude that White changed his mind along the way because a wall outlet appears in the lower left of the painting on the right, and that painting’s aspect ratio is identical to the existing mural  depicting “Summer.” The paintings depicting “Spring” and “Summer” flanked the entrance door to the old Dover Post Office.  NCW

One Comment

  1. Nancy Carol October 19, 2012 at 2:20 am #

    Dear Mr. Fleischmann,

    Thank you for contacting me about your painting by William D. White which was painted during the 1920s. There are several factors that may influence the value of a painting by White, including its size, condition, subject matter, and whether it’s full color or black-and-white. Unfortunately, White is still relatively unknown, and his paintings do not command the prices of his illustrator contemporaries.

    Having said that, I have access to the sale prices for the only works by White that have come into the market in the past 10 years and might be able to provide a ball park value for your painting if you could email me a photo and dimensions.

    Feel free to contact me at 302-378-7274 or birdsong@birdsongbooks.com
    Best regards,
    Nancy Carol Willis

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