Communication by EarthPhoto courtesy of Sercan Senlikci
Originally built as the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse and now the Federal Building and Courthouse, the building was completed as a federal Public Works Administration (PWA) project with Treasury Department funding in 1935.
“Commissioned by the Treasury Department Section of Fine Arts, eight murals painted by artist and Cornell University art professor Kenneth Leland Washburn (1904-1989) on the lobby’s upper walls depict scenes pertaining to local agriculture, industry, transportation, and the U.S. mail service.”
Modern Worker In Industry & Agriculture
Modern & Ancient Methods Of Communication
Communication By Earth, Water, & Air
Thrift & Postal Savings System
Oil on canvas: 57” x 58” each
Installed in 1938, the murals reflect the rich and varied history of the Binghamton Area and the importance of the mail as a means of communication.
On the North Wall, Modern Worker in Industry and Modern Worker in Agriculture reflect local industry and agriculture. Known as the “Triple Cities,” Binghamton, and adjacent Endicott and Johnson City formed a “Valley of Opportunity,” which served as a beacon to European Immigrants looking for work in America in the early 20th century. Endicott Johnson shoe factory and the International Time Recording Company (later IBM) historically made Binghamton a vital center of industry. The city’s position at the convergence of the Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers, made the valleys of Binghamton a rich and fruitful farming area. On the South Wall, Modern Method of Communication contrasts a modern mail carrier with Ancient Method of Communication where a Biblical Noah and a young boy, with the Ark in the background, release carrier doves. Installed on the West an East Walls, Communication by Earth, Communication by Water, Communication by Air and Thrift and Postal Savings System pay tribute to the progress achieved by the Postal Service through exalted scenes illustrating the varied means by which the post is delivered. Each mural, placed over an archway, depicts a means of communication, be it the locomotive, airplane or ship. Three of the four murals are accented by the insertion of a mailbag or pouch under the archway, almost as though the objects themselves were engulfed in the scene above them.
Kenneth Leland Washburn was born in Frankville, New York, on January 23, 1904. Receiving his Master of Fine Arts degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Washburn also taught painting and sculpture at the University from 1928 – 1950. Washburn moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1950 and resided there until his death in Woodside, California in 1989. A prolific Sculpture and Painter, Washburn completed some 300 paintings and sculpture in his lifetime, earning prizes at the Finger Lakes Exhibition, Auburn, New York in 1944 and the Cortland County New York State Exhibition in 1945.
Contributor note (Sercan Senlikci):
The Federal Building and Courthouse Murals, Binghamton, NY was already provided as a New Deal site on livingnewdeal.org. However, I noticed that the further information about the murals and the photographs were missing, and I decided to contribute. As the murals were in a federal building, I have been told that I was not allowed to take the pictures of the murals. However, I mentioned that the pictures will provide great contribution to the American History if I was allowed, and asked permission of the courthouse manager for this special case. After my special request, they allowed me to take pictures of the murals for the sake of contributing to the American History. Unfortunately, I was still not allowed to take a picture of one of the murals, Thrift & Postal Savings System, as there was a security camera above the mural.
The description is directly quoted from the informative label in the building lobby.
Project originally submitted by Evan Kalish on November 15, 2012.
Additional contributions by Sercan Senlikci, Ocber 27, 2017.
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