From the Journal

Of Milford Zornes

Dixon Mural

In 1945 or 1946 noted American artist Maynard Dixon was approached by the Santa Fe Railroad to do a mural for the railroad station in Los Angeles. Recent information suggests this was only part of the story.

Milford Zornes often told the story of Dixon asking him, Edith Hamlin (wife of Maynard Dixon), and Buck Weaver to finish a mural he designed for the Santa Fe Railroad. He was much too sick to finish the mural he had designed and that the railroad had approved. Milford said that Dixon asked him to sign the mural and jokingly said that was so that if people did not like the mural they would blame the folks who signed it. Milford said that he went to Chicago to install the mural in the railroad headquarters.

Installed in the Los Angeles railroad station is the Dixon mural titled “The Grand Canyon”. I assumed that Milford was confused and that the railroad headquarters was in Chicago and they had approved the installation in Los Angeles. This mural was moved to the Veterans Sports Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona when the station was closed. Since that time the mural has been sold or given to the State of Arizona and is now on display at the Historical Society in Tempe, Arizona. The Curator there read the names of the people who signed the mural. She read – Edith Hamlin Dixon, Buck Weaver and Roy Strong. Dan Hagerty, in his book “The Art and Life of Maynard Dixon” said this was the case. So where was Milford’s signature?

This was a dead end. Or was it. Maybe there was a second mural. There were photos of the mural in Milford’s papers when he died in 2008. These photos by Alfred A. Cohn, a well-known professional photographer from Tucson, Arizona, said, on the back, that Milford had worked on the mural.

The proof of two murals is in a San Francisco Art Association Bulletin dated September 1947. The article quotes Edith Dixon as saying she was assisted in the execution of the murals by Buck Weaver and Milford Zornes”. (Please note the quote says murals not mural.) A personal note on the back of the bulletin says in part “I hear the Santa Fe Magazine has quite an article with the pictures but they have not sent me one yet”. The photo of the “Taos” mural is on the same page above the article.

The ”Taos” was designed at the same time as ”The Grand Canyon” mural. The”Taos” mural was installed in the railroad headquarters by Milford and Buck Weaver. The location of this mural is unknown so it is not yet possible to see if Milford signed it as he said. We now know that he did work on this mural and helped install it in Chicago.

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