Edwin Boyd Johnson (b. 1904)

Airmail, 1937

Medium: Depression-era Fresco

Size: 8′ long, 4 1/2 high

Restored by Parma Conservation and returned to Melrose Park in 2009

The History of Airmail

“History…is who we are and defines us as individuals and a nation.” – Richard Grunt

June 1935 – Treasury Section of Fine Arts announces a competition to design and paint a nine foot wide by four foot, six inch high mural for the Melrose Park Post Office.

January 1937 – Artist Edwin Boyd Johnson is selected as the winner with his entry entitled Airmail.  According to the artist, Airmail is “Symbolic of air mail . . . and is a composite design of buildings typical of the town [Melrose Park].  The sun, moon and stars are symbolic of the continuous day and night air mail service.” During the WWII era, the post office building was an airmail facility. The mail would be dropped off at an airport that was located near Mannheim Road and North Avenue and brought to the post office building. The Melrose Park Post Office was one of the first airmail facilities in America.

May 1937 – Airmail is installed (at a cost of $650.00) above the postmaster’s office in the Melrose Park Post Office at 801 N. Broadway. 

November 1966 – The post office at 801 N. Broadway is replaced by a new facility on 25th Avenue.

March 1969 – The General Services Administration officially declares the old post office on Broadway as surplus property.

October 1969 – The Village of Melrose Park purchases the abandoned post office for conversion into the town’s new library.

October 1971 – The conversion of the old post office is complete and the new library is dedicated.

April 1972 – As no trace of the mural can be found, the GSA declares Airmail to have been destroyed during the renovation process.

April 2007 – The library receives an inquiry from former resident Richard Grunt about the disposition of Airmail, leading to the mural’s re-discovery above the circulation desk, hidden by a drop ceiling.

August 2007 – Mayor Ron Serpico kicks off the restoration fundraising with a $5,000 donation.

September 2009 – The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation gives the library a $10,000 matching grant (on top of a $5,000 grant in October, 2008) and Mayor Serpico donates an additional $2,000 to complete the fundraising.

October 2009 – Parma Conservation removes the remnants of Airmail for restoration at their facility in Chicago.

April 2009 – The fully restored fresco Airmail is officially unveiled at the Melrose Park Historical Center in the Melrose Park Public Library.

Original Post Office Building
Rediscovery of Mural
Restoration Process
Fully Restored and Unveiled

Ruzich, Joseph. “Library gets a Special Delivery from the Past.” Chicago Tribune, 21 Apr. 2010, pp. 1, 4.