Piggott Post Office Hosts Mural Stamp Ceremony

Thursday, April 18, 2019
The new pane of mural stamps is unveiled for the first time. Those on the stage included, from left: PES student Brooklyn Harmon, Piggott Post Master Stephanie Jett, John Gill, Pete Mendonca, Dr. Aaron Rhodes, Piggott Mayor Travis Williams, Brianna Williams from WBU and Frank Staples.
TD photo/Tim Blair

Several hundred spectators were on hand Wednesday, April 10, as the Piggott Post Office hosted a first-day-of-issue ceremony for the U.S. Postal Service's new mural stamps. The five new stamps all depict murals found on Post Office walls from across the nation, including the one on the wall of the local facility—prompting the ceremony. Included were local and regional officials, an historian on the subject and members of the artist's family. PES student Brooklyn Harmon, winner of an essay contest sponsored by the Post Office, also had a chance to read her composition.

The new stamps, and special event, were announced earlier this year. The effort was planned as the Postal Service celebrates its Post Office lobby government-commissioned artwork from the late 1930s and early 1940s. Among the five chosen to appear on stamps was “Air Mail,” completed in 1941 by Iowa artist Dan Rhodes on the north wall of the Piggott Post Office.

Serving as the master of ceremonies was Piggott Post Master Stephanie Jett, who offered a word of welcome. The Piggott High School band was also on hand, and performed for those in attendance.

Following the presentation of colors by a color guard from the Arkansas State Police, the National Anthem was performed by Brianna Williams of Williams Baptist University. Afterward, Sgt. Major Frank Staples (Retired) of the Arkansas Army National Guard led the assemblage in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Offering the welcome to those in attendance was Piggott Mayor Travis Williams, followed by the official dedication as the pane of new stamps was unveiled. Serving as the keynote speaker for the occasion was Pat Mendonca, senior director of the Office of the Postmaster General and CEO of the United States Postal Service. A career postal employee, he has served since 1976.

Mendonca explained that the murals were painted as part of the Works Progress Administration and funded by the U.S. Department of Treasury and their Treasury Relief Project. During its existence from 1934 to 1943 some 1,371 murals were painted by nearly 850 artists in Post Offices and other federal buildings.

“Scores of these wonderful murals illuminate Post Office lobbies across the nation and these stamps help celebrate them as American treasures,” he offered. “The magnificent Air Mail mural, by Daniel Rhodes, located here at the Piggott Post Office, shows a local letter carrier helping pilots load bags of mail onto their plane. The mural represents postal employees' commitment to serving our customers and communities across the United States. And that commitment to service continues today.”

He indicated the murals were painted in an effort to bring beauty to Post Offices across the nation. They were also designed to help boost morale of Americans during the Great Depression, and provide work for artists through the Public Works of Art Project, funded by the Civil Works Administration and overseen by the Treasury Department. Later named the Section of Fine Arts, it accounted for over 1,000 murals in Post Offices and other public places.

“We have a citizen's stamp advisory committee that picks the subject matter, and they commemorate people but they also commemorate things that are important to the United States itself—including this series of Post Office murals,” Mendonca offered. “Obviously it's very relevant to Piggott because of the great mural that's here. I actually live in Rockville, Md., where one of the other murals is located. But, it's not only good for the Postal Service but for the local communities as well.”

Harmon then had the chance to read her essay, which was picked as the top one from the fourth grade classes at PES. Brooklyn is the daughter of Gage and Casey Langley and was also accompanied by her sister, Khloe.

Also speaking was John Gill, chairman of Arkansas Parks and Recreation. He provided those in attendance with a brief history on the murals in Arkansas Post Offices, and presented Jett with an autographed copy of a book on the subject.

Gill is a life-long Arkansas resident and has practiced law in the state for over 50 years. He is also author of the book “Post Masters, Arkansas Post Office Art in the New Deal” which was published by ASU in 2002 and features the Piggott mural. He later noted he had also visited Piggott in the late 1970s as he worked on the book “On the Courthouse Square in Arkansas,” which was published in 1980.

“This mural is one of my favorites,” Gill offered. “And it was so well done, you can go in there right now and it looks like he just painted it.”

Gill also noted that the Piggott mural is the only one which depicts postal workers in action, although it's not 100 percent accurate.

“It depicts actual air mail service, which at the time didn't exist in Piggott,” he added of the theme. “There was no airport and no air mail, but it's interesting that he looked to the future. And the artist said of the piece that air mail is supposed to bring rural Arkansas into connection with the rest of the world, and in essence it did.”

Rounding out the speakers for the day was Dr. Aaron Rhodes, the son of artist Dan Rhodes.

“My father's artistic energies found expression in a variety of forms over the course of his career and his Works Progress Administration sponsored murals were his foundation,” Rhodes said of his father's work. “His murals depict people like those he knew and identified with growing up in a small Midwestern community and were a bridge to his future as a ceramic artist, teacher and author.”

Dr. Rhodes lives in Germany and is an international human rights activist, university lecturer and author. He also is the administrator for a Facebook page titled, “Daniel Rhodes Centennial” which highlights his father's art and influences on other artists.

“For our local Post Office this brings a little notoriety to Piggott, and just encourages people to come in and shop our store and look around,” Post Master Jett said of the occasion. “And, it encourages our employees to do their very best. It has had nothing but positive impacts for us.”

A local native, Jett also pointed to the honor of having such a unique mural as part of the local Post Office's day-to-day life.

“It's great to be associated with something with such a rich history,” she added. “These murals aren't in every Post Office, so to have the honor of not only to work in my hometown, but to also work in an office with one of these murals is a huge honor.”

Following the ceremony the stamps were offered for sale, along with special first-day-of-issue envelopes and a framed pane. Those who took part in the ceremony were also available to autograph the special offerings, earning themselves a place in Postal Service history.

The stamps are being sold in panes of 10, featuring the five different murals. In addition, the town or city and state in which the work is located is printed beneath each mural on the stamp.

In addition to the 1941 mural “Air Mail” in Piggott, the others featured included--”Kiowas Moving Camp” from 1936, in Anadarko, Okla.; “Mountains and Yucca” from 1937 in Deming, N.M.; “Antelope” from 1939 in Florence, Colo.; and “Sugarloaf Mountain” from 1940, which may be found in the Post Office in Rockville, Md.

Postal officials note the Post Office Murals stamps are being issued as Forever Stamps, and will always be equal in value to the current First Class Mail one-ounce price. Customers may purchase the panes at the Piggott Post Office and other facilities, and may find them in the Postal Service store at www.usps.com/shop or by calling 800 STAMP24 (800 782-6724).

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