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13 Things About the Coit Tower Murals Last week I posted a painting for my wordless image….actually it is part of mural….part of a series of 26 murals that can be found in the Coit Tower. One reader, Keith, first identified the location as San Francisco but the gold star goes to Shannon at Cyberbones for correctly identfying the tower, the location, etc. Here are 13 things about the Coit Tower murals. Don’t miss the slide show at the end of the post with several images of the murals. 1. You can find Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, California. People often use the art decco, reinforced concrete tower as a directional marker when in San Francisco 2. The money for the construction of the tower came from the very eccentric Lillie Hitchcock Coit. She loved San Francisco, and she got away with doing things other women of her day wouldn’t have been able to do mainly because she was wealthy. 3. Some people think the tower was built to resemble a fire hose because Lillie loved the fire department. Others think it looks like something else, but I won’t mention that here.:) 4. Inside the tower you can find murals from 26 different artists. They were done with the cooperation of the Federat Arts Project which came out of the Works Progress Administration and are protected as historial treasures. 5. The murals were painted in 1934 and are considered to be California’s best example of Depression Era art. The art style is patterned after Diego Rivera’s social realism style and show various ways working class Californians spent their time during the Depression. 6. The group of murals contains several different scenes including a bank robbery, a scene from the harbor, and the interior of a department store. My slide show (scroll down) includes a dairy scene, farm scenes, a newpaper office, and manufacturing scenes. 7. The murals were highly criticized by some, and the opening of the tower was delayed for several months because of them. Critics opposed what they called subversive and Communist themes shown in the murals. 1934 is the same year that a maritime worker strike occurred in California that led to several deaths on what is remembered as Bloody Thursday. 8. The images with this post (not in the slideshow) are from the public library scene. This mural was painted by Bernard B. Zakheim. He depicted another artist, John Langley Howard, as the man reaching for the book. The title of the book he’s choosing from the shelf is Das Kapital, by Karl Marx. He is choosing it over the newspaper which he’s crumpling in his hand. 9. Notice the man reading the paper (image below). This is supposed to be another artist, Ralph Stackpole. The headline of the paper reads “Local Artists Protest Destruction of Rivera’s Fresco”. This protest stems from a controversy concerning a Rivera mural at Rockefeller Center which was destroyed because Rivera refused to remove an image of Lenin. Rivera and Stackpole were great friends. 10. Another headline in the library refers to Nazi attacks in Austria. Remember this was 1934 and American had not yet gotten involved in the conflict that would become World War II 11. One of the murals even had the slogan, “Workers of the World Unite!” It was removed before the tower opened to the public. 12. These murals and the interesting story regarding Coit Tower could be key ingredients to any unit or lesson regarding Socialist leanings in the 1930s, the Depression, California history, and Roosevelt’s ABC government since the Works Progress Administration put artists to work. Students love the irony that they were given work during a time when many did not have a job, and they used the opportunity to protest the Establishment. 13. A book by Masha Zakheim Jewett titled Coit Tower, San Francisco: Its History and Art contains more information regarding the tower and the interesting murals on its walls.

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