The Newcomers: Livingston, TN FAP Mural

Margaret Covey Chisholm. 1940.The Newcomers. [oil on canvas]. USPS, Livingston, TN.

On our recent trip to Standing Stone State Park, we visited the post office in Livingston, TN to see this fantastic mural, the first of the 10 painted by women that I’m looking to visit across Tennessee. It was painted in 1940 as part of the Treasury Section of Fine Arts (TSFA) program. The Section, as it was known, held a competition for artists to submit their work to be chosen to decorate hundreds of new post offices across the country that were built as part of WPA work projects. In an attempt to create jobs for artists as well as laborers, it was agreed that one percent of the building funds for each new federal building project would go to ornamentation.1

This particular mural was created by artist, Margaret Covey Chisolm, who chose the classic image of a cabin raising and new pioneers being welcomed to Tennessee by their neighbors, who come bearing gifts of livestock as her subject matter. Despite being painted on the same wall as two other murals I have since visited, this one felt much larger due to the way it extends down between the postmaster’s door and the bulletin boards, and also all the way up to the ceiling. All of the records I have found of the artwork say that it is oil on canvas, but I wonder about that a little, with the way it extends down the wall. Perhaps this one was painted directly on the wall, or maybe the canvas was applied somewhat like wall paper? I’m not sure but it’s interesting trying to find out, either way.

Closeup of the artist’s signature just above the bulletin board frame.
Livingston’s New Deal Era Post Office, located at 105 S. Court Square

The woodwork and architecture of these old post offices are nearly as interesting as the murals themselves, and I find it interesting that three of the four I’ve visited so far have identical layouts. I’ll have to check and see if they were all designed by the same architect or not. (That’s right, I’ve already visited two more post offices since last week, so you know there will be more tales of my adventures coming soon.) As always, thanks for reading, and maybe I’ll see you out there.

Cornerstone of the Livingston, TN Post Office

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