Courthouse mural on display

by | September 27, 2006 12:00 am

During Arts Emanuel on Saturday, Sept. 30, the historic mural in Emanuel County Courthouse complex will be available for viewing by the public from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Painted in 1939 as a Works Progress Administration project, “Experimenting with the First Model of the Cotton Gin” is located in the former Post Office on South Main Street in Swainsboro.

When discussing the mural, Clerk of Court Jay Lawson commented that many of the murals painted during the depression years have vanished, however, this mural has been maintained and still is available for

viewing. He adds that when the county bought the post office building, the Federal government retained the ownership of the mural.

The mural depicts Eli Whitney consulting his plans while he instructs workers on the operation of the machine that would hugely increase cotton processing and make the cultivation of cotton extremely lucrative in the American South. At the time, Whitney was employed by the widow of Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Greene as a tutor for her sons at Mulberry Grove Plantation near Savannah. In the painting, the widow and her elegant friends watch the experiment while a shifty-looking pair of plotters can be seen in the foreground. They represent the fact that Whitney was defrauded; his plans for the device were stolen and he was unable to profit from his invention.

The mural’s artist, Edna Reindel, is considered to be one of America’s foremost painters and sculptors during the 20th century. After graduating from Pratt Institute of Art in New York City, she was a book illustrator and a freelance artist. Working for the Federal Art Project of the WPA, Reindel completed several murals between 1937 and 1942, including the Swainsboro Post Office mural. She developed a sharply defined style that made her a leading force of the American Magic Realism movement. During World War II, Life Magazine commissioned Reindel to paint a series about women defense workers. These pictures of women working along with men in factories were an inspiration for

“Rosie the Riveter,” the mythical icon who represented the American woman’s fighting spirit. Work by Reindel can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, Georgia Museum of Art and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art,

among other places. The Edna Reindel Papers are housed at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.

To learn about other activities happening during the Emanuel Arts festival, visit the website,

  • Courthouse mural on display
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