Beaver County Artist Gave Us Yet Another Reason to Like the WPA

Mural Depicts Depression Era in Coalfields

By Bill Archer
Progressive America Rising via Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, Va, June 13, 2011. — A neon light fixture in the lobby of the Bluefield, Va., post office partially obscures a Tazewell County art treasure, but the tempera mural above the postmaster’s office door represents a New Deal initiative that was aimed at restoring morale among citizens who were suffering the lingering effects of surviving the Great Depression.

In the years after the end of World War I, the U.S. economy experienced some robust growth and left evidence of that growth in cities throughout the nation. Most of the imposing structures in the heart of downtown Bluefield including the 13-story tall West Virginian Manor and the Arts and Crafts Center appeared in the mid-1920s, and steel-making coal from southern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia was in great demand as builders used steel as the framework for skyscrapers including the Empire State Building completed in 1931.

While “Black Thursday,” Oct. 24, 1029, signaled the start of the decline, the Dust Bowl drought starting in 1930 and lasting almost a decade threw the U.S. into desperate straights and by March 9, 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a “Bank Holiday” and started the process of restoring confidence in the nation’s banks, every American family had been touched in some way by the depression.

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