All in a Day’s Work – 1940s

It’s Labor Day and while it is time to say an unofficial goodbye to summer, it is also the perfect time to recognize some of the staff that worked hard to make the Museum what it is today.

The Museum staff in the 1940s was small. Counting the names on the rosters in bulletins and annual reports, there were fewer than 20 people, including the teaching staff, which is about 10% of the people currently employed by the DMA. Some did multiple jobs covering both administrative and teaching duties, for example, or managing both the library and education programs.


This is Building Superintendent Jimmie Garrett in 1940. He joined the staff after working on the construction crew that built the Museum in 1936. Unfortunately, I can’t quite figure out what he is doing in the photo, maybe guarding an installation in progress, or maybe just pondering the small figures on the shelves.


Ed Bearden, in the coat and tie, was both the Museum’s Assistant Director and a member of the teaching staff. Here, he instructs a sculpture class with a live model in 1946.

The 1947 State Fair was an exciting time as the Museum secured a loan of Rosa Bonheur’s famous painting The Horse Fair from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and staff worked hard to promote the event.


Mary Bywaters (left) and Fran Bearden (right) use The Horse Fair to promote Dallas Art Association membership. The man in the center is unidentified, but it would be great to learn his name if you recognize him.


In addition to administrative and art class teaching duties, Ed Bearden also gave public lectures. Here he is speaking about The Horse Fair in 1947.


Standing left to right: Herb and Jett Rogalla, Ed and Fran Bearden, Mellville Mercer, Jeanette Bickel, Rusty Grimes, Barbara Mercer, Margaret Milam; seated left to right: Jerry Smith, Mary Bywaters, Tom Grimes.

Thankfully it wasn’t all work for our 1940s staff. Here are some DMFA staff and friends in what I like to imagine was a staff picnic-type outing, but maybe I am reading too much into the grass and trees in the picture. It would be quite a happy coincidence if the photo happened to be taken on Labor Day 1948.

Stay tuned next Labor Day to see Museum staff of the 1950s doing interesting things . . .

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.


3 Responses to “All in a Day’s Work – 1940s”

  1. 1 Debora Hunter September 5, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Very fun to see these photos and recall the names of those who worked hard in fostering the visual arts in Dallas. We are all the beneficiaries of their sustained labor. Let’s also call to mind all those who work as the silent and unnamed staff (i.e.”wage employees”) of the DMA who clean the toilets, sweep the floors, empty the trash containers and make our visit to the temple of culture so enjoyable. It takes a village.

  2. 2 Mary Williams September 5, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    What time are the late night talks and where in the DMA?

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