Collecting Post Offices for a Hobby By Gary Parks
Aug 17, 2014 02:49PM
By Erica Shames
The post office of Mifflinburg is an example of the colonial revival architectural plan. It is brick and sandstone and sports a slate roof and a cupola topped with a weathervane. The new post office was completed in 1939 and dedication exercises were held Sept. 16. According to the Mifflinburg Telegraph (Sept. 21, 1939), there were “approximately 300 persons in attendance.” The Honorable Louis Yorke De Zychlinski, assistant deputy fourth assistant postmaster general, was the keynote speaker.
The building was constructed under the authority of the Emergency Construction Program and was designed by the Public Buildings Administration of the Federal Works Agency. The sum of $75,000 was allotted for the cost of the site, the building and its administration. Work on the building began March 25. At the time, Samuel B. Miller was postmaster. After the dedication exercises, approximately 500 people inspected the new facility.
Artwork within the Mifflinburg Post Office consists of four bas relief (raised plaster) panels. The panels, created by Marguerite Bennet Kassler in 1941, depict pioneers of the community engaged in hunting, farming, weaving and spinning. The four murals depict Mifflinburg settlers hunting (Elias P. Youngman and Capt. Martin Reed); farming (Stephen Mensch, Col. Samuel Barber, James Chambers and John Watson); and weaving and spinning (Mrs. Matilda Pellman, Mrs. Lydia Gutelius, Rebecca Latshaw, Mrs. Moses Miller, Mrs. Christine Catherman and Mrs. Julia Stedman). The fourth mural recalls Mifflinburg’s hospitality in which “the offering of fruit to the guest by the hostess, Mrs. Henry Gast [is depicted], Mr. Henry Gast is seated with a child on his knee.”
The portrait of Henry Gast was revised several times at the request of the family. Mifflinburg native Mary Koons relates the story. “Mrs. Roush [Henry Gast’s daughter] was shown the sketch drawn by Mrs. Kassler. He was depicted holding a beer stein. ‘This will never do,’ she said. ‘Henry Gast did not drink.’ The artist obligingly altered it, placing a pipe in his hand. ‘This will never do,’ said Mrs. Roush again. ‘Henry Gast never smoked.’ In the third sketch, Henry Gast held an apple. The artist felt she was safe with Gast holding an apple.”
Mary Koons remembers the artist well. “At the time,” Koons recounts, “the Leitzel family owned a jewelry store, next to the American Legion. They often put a sign in the window, indicating that they took in boarders. It was at the Leitzel’s “Tourist Home” that Marguerite Bennet Kassler lived while completing the murals.”
An artist of New Hope, Pa., Kassler also designed the artwork of East Stroudsburg’s post office. Kassler was born in 1893 in Takoma, Wa. She studied the ancient sculpture of Italy and Egypt at the Art Institute of Chicago. In Paris, Kassler studied with Antoine Bourdelle and George Hilbert, and in Denver with Robert Garrison.
Artwork in Muncy
Muncy’s post office possesses artwork depicting the colonial ride of Rachel Silverthorne, painted by John W. Beauchamp in 1938. Beauchamp was born in 1906. He studied with R.E. Miller, L. Kroll and F.L. Schlemmer. His work was exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1933, 1935 and 1936; the Corcoran Gallery from 1935-1939; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Beauchamp also produced a mural at the Millinocket, Maine, post office.
Northumberland pays homage
The Northumberland Post Office pays homage to its most famous son Joseph Priestley. Priestley’s portrait was accomplished in red mahogany in 1942 by Dina (Mrs. Samuel Gould) Melicov. Born in 1905 in Russia, Melicov studied at the Iranian Institute, Columbia University and with Antoine Bourdelle in Paris. Interestingly enough, the only commission listed in her biography is the Northumberland Post Office, although she exhibited extensively at the Art Institute of Chicago, the 1939 New York World’s Fair; the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Salons of America exhibition in 1934-1935.
Pennsylvania farming at Bloomsburg
The Bloomsburg Post Office features Roy King’s carved walnut “Pennsylvania Farming,” carved in 1937. Roy Elwood King was born in Richmond, Va., in 1903. He studied at the University of Richmond and the University of Hawaii. His list of commissions is extensive and includes the War Memorials at Honolulu and Hilo, Hawaii; the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair; Washington Hall at West Point; and the Schofield Barracks Post Office, Hawaii.
Iron heritage in Danville
The Danville Post Office depicts the iron heritage of the region with a cast aluminum artwork by Jean Antoine de Marco. Titled “Iron Pouring,” the piece was made in 1941. Born in Paris in May 1898, de Marco studied at the Ecole National Arts Decoratif. His sculptural works are housed in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Norfolk Museum of Arts & Sciences and the Smithsonian’s National Art Collection. His important commissions include 12 stone high reliefs at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore; sculpture for two chapels and three heroic-sized statues at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.; and heroic-sized marble portrait medallions at the House of Congress, also in Washington, D.C. De Marco won numerous medals of merit from the American Academy of Arts and the National Academy of Design.
Rural delivery depicted in Selinsgrove
The Selinsgrove Post Office was designed in the Georgian revival style, featuring a brick facade and a columnaded portico. George Rickey was the artist chosen to paint the murals within the post office. The mural depicts the far-reaching importance of rural delivery. Rickey depicted local scenery and the agricultural heritage of Snyder County. Titled “Susquehanna Trail,” the mural was painted in tempera on canvas in 1939. The figures in the foreground are virtually life-sized. The woman depicted in the background is holding a letter. A mailbox is painted into the landscape.
Born in South Bend, Ind., in 1907, Rickey was primarily known as an abstract metal sculptor. He received his training at Trinity College in Scotland and at the Ruskin School of Drawing at Oxford. Well-respected in the art field, his work appears in the permanent collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.; the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Gardens, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Modern Art, New York City; and the Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. His important commissions included the Fort Worth City Hall (1974) and the Prince Jonah Kalanlandole Building in Honolulu (1975). Lembeck vividly remembers meeting Rickey at his home in East Chatham, N.Y., in 1996. Although initially reluctant to meet with Lembeck, Rickey recounted his artistic career in detail and the interview lasted for more than two hours. Rickey died in 2002.