Historic Detail in Minden’s Depression-Era Art

In a previous post, we told you about Nebraska’s twelve post office murals, as presented in Robert  Puschendorf’s new book Nebraska’s Post Office Murals: Born of the Depression, Fostered by the New Deal. One of the murals with a fascinating story and intense attention to detail is the mural on display in Minden: Military Post on the Overland Trail. When William E. L. Bunn received the commission to paint Minden’s mural, he traveled there in order to conduct historical research on the area. Before beginning his drafts, he spent three months studying Minden’s old Fort Kearny, which was no longer standing at the time. Through painstaking research, Bunn very accurately depicted a composite of Fort Kearny buildings from various stages in the Fort’s active service. However, he did make the common mistake of misspelling the Fort’s name as “Kearney.”

 

Minden’s post office mural, Military Post on the Overland Trail, 1938, oil on canvas Along the bottom of the mural marches a trail of wagons, animals, and people, each with personal detail. Bunn’s sketchbook contains drafts of individual costumes and people, as well as his sources. Detail from the bottom right of the mural.

 

Enthusiastic about the subject, Bunn spent considerable time, sometimes months, on each draft and revision of the work to ensure accuracy. He invited historians to see the full size cartoon and offer final suggestions. Upon completing the final product, Bunn wrote, “I am now content to let the mural leave my studio without any regrets for the time and efforts I put into it.” The Minden postmaster and community were impressed with Bunn’s attention to detail, and they happily received the mural.

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