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'Arrival by Ship,' 'Torchlight Procession,' and 'Pioneers Receiving Mail'

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    Posted 11 years ago

    (74 items)

    At the Rincon Center, which used to be a post office in downtown San Francisco, there are 27 murals done by a Russian, Anton Refregier. He did these for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1941, completed in 1948.

    These are murals 13, 14, and 15. Their descriptions by the post office are transcribed below.

    13. Arrival by Ship: "Emigrants to California arrived by ship as well as by land. The quickest route from the East Coast to the West was a combination of both. Travelers sailed down the Atlantic to Nicaragua or Panama, crossed overland, and sailed up the Pacific to California. Others sailed the entire way via Cape Horn. Many of the faster clipper ships made the voyage around the Horn in under 100 days. This panel depicts the first Caucasian women to arrive in San Francisco.'

    14. Torchlight Procession: "The title of this panel should actually be 'Picketing for the Eight Hour Day.' In 1867, a labor organization known as the Mechanics' State Council initiated the eight hour day and was opposed by a group of ship owners known as the Ten Hour League. Laborers demonstrated and ultimately prevailed."

    "Refregier had originally included picket signs saying "8 hour day." They had to be painted out, however, because authorities felt the panel was too pro labor and leftist in tone."

    15. Pioneers Receiving Mail: "Early California settlers received mail from the Eastern united States primarily by ship. pacific Mail Steamship Company was founded in 1848 and operated steamers from Panama to the Columbia River. Cornelius Vanderbilt founded a competing line in 1851. By 1859 Pacific Mail had agreed to share its business with Vanderbilt controlling Atlantic shipping, and Pacific Mail controlling the Pacific. The railroads gradually took over more and more delivery through the 1860's, especially after completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869."

    "This panel depicts California's first Post Office."

    Leftist in tone seems like a theme many muralists had to reel in, especially after WWII and the Red Scare. Conservatives targeted government art projects as bastions of Communist behavior in government.

    Part of my trip to Rincon Center. For more on New Deal Post Office murals, check out this website:

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