Image Courtesy of Willie Allen. Used with the permission of the United States Postal ServiceŽ. All rights reserved.
Artist:Mary Purser (1913-1986 )
Title:How Happy was the Occasion
Dimensions:10 ft. x 5 ft.
Medium:oil on canvas
Location:Clarksville Post Office located at 200 West Sevier Street, Clarksville, Arkansas
About the Mural:Mary May Purser was commissioned for $470 to create a mural for Clarksville, Arkansas on the basis of competent designs submitted in the Vicksburg, Post Office Competition. Purser visited Clarksville in search of appropriate subject matter and spoke with the local postmaster. The main source of information for the mural came from Ella Molloy Langford's book, History of Johnson County, Arkansas: The first hundred Years, which described Clarksville as it existed in the 1840s. Purser's mural is the only Arkansas mural that depicts the actual post office into which the work was installed.
The mural at the time of installation. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
The period depicted is about 1840, shortly after Arkansas became a state and Clarksville the county seat. The Little Rock-Springfield stagecoach has just arrived and the townsfolk flock to meet it and receive the mail which the driver holds aloft. The flag in front of the Court house on the right has only 25 stars, as it did at the time. In the background a train of covered wagons approaches a covered bridge which spans a creek.
About the Artist: Mary May Purser was born in Chicago in 1913. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied in the design department under Margaret Artingstall and Emil Zettler for three years. She also studied painting under Nicolai Cikovsky and spent several months of travel and study in Europe, specifically Florence, Italy. Purser exhibited work in Spokane, Washington and in Louisiana and was commissioned to execute a private mural painting in Florida.
About the Location:Clarksville, in Johnson County, was named the county seat in 1836 and incorporated on December 21, 1848. The community was named after Lorenzo N. Clark, a large land owner within Johnson County. The first free delivery of rural mail in Arkansas began in Johnson County in 1896. The area mines coal, iron ore, and gypsum; it logs oak, hickory, pecan, cottonwood, ash, walnut, and pine; and it farms corn, cotton, oats, wheat, peaches, and apples. In 1938, Clarksville began celebrating its annual County Peach Festival.