Eldora Pauline Lorenzini

1910, Weldona, Colorado ‒ 1993, Alliance, Nebraska

Illustrator, muralist, fine art painter, and teacher, Eldora Lorenzini lived in Colorado and several southern states during much of her life, but she remains known in Nebraska for the mural she created in 1939 for the newly-built post office in Hebron. Titled Stampeding Buffaloes Stopping the Train, it is a symbolic image of a passing moment in time when buffalo, livelihood of the Indians, seemed to rule the Plains. However, they are faced with the challenge of white men with guns and big machines, and most know who eventually triumphed.

The mural was part of the federal government’s Treasury Relief Art Project (TRAP), which was enacted to ease unemployment during a time of severe economic depression in America. The first part of the project was the construction of 1,100 new post office buildings in communities across the country. Then, with those structures completed, TRAP focused on interior decoration and sought qualified artists to compete for the mural commissions. Eldora was the winner for Hebron.

Her mural is panoramic and covers the horizontal wall space over a massive dark-stained large door whose wide trim is centered as though part of the mural’s lower frame. Installation of Stampeding Buffaloes Stopping the Train was newsworthy enough statewide that The Nebraska State Journal of December 3, 1939 carried the following article from The Hebron Journal:

“Miss Eldora P. Lorenzini arrived Tuesday and installed the beautiful mural on the north wall in the lobby of the post office. The mural, in colors of browns and greens, relieved with a touch of blue, represents a western scene of a railroad train, stopped by a herd of buffalo. Three men are shooting into the herd. The engine and box-cars were copied from a photo in the Journal’s collection, portraying the old corn train on the Rock Island Railroad in 1887, advertising Thayer county. The streamers and banner advertisements are necessarily omitted. Eldora Lorenzini studied art at the [Colorado] State Teachers College, Greeley, and then at [Colorado] Denver Women’s College and the Kirkland School of Art in Denver. She has studied at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center for the last two years, and also served as monitor in life classes. Employed in the museum as an artist for the index of American Design, Miss Lorenzini is to have an exhibition of her color plates at the Fine Arts Center in the near future. She lives at the YWCA.”

Opportunity for Eldora to have her own mural painting project was a classic case of ‘being in the right place at the right time.’ In 1936 and 1937, she was a student at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and her teachers were key federal art project personnel. George Biddle had brought the program concept to his good friend and former classmate, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Peppino Mangravite, Henry Varnum Poor, and Boardman Robinson, worked with Biddle while also teaching at the Center. And then Ed Rowan, a project director working with these men, arranged for Eldora to have mural painting experience by serving as mural assistant to Frank Mechau, a regionalist painter who had many commissions. So before working in Hebron, Eldora had joined Mechau “and his other students on the Colorado Springs post office mural (a project of the Treasury Relief Art Project) and also on Mechau’s mural for the Washington, D.C. office department building.” (Puschendorf)

However, even with this preparation, Eldora had to go through local and federal jury design competitions, which included creation of a winning design for a specific location. After accepting the Hebron commission, she spent time in the community, and also went to zoos to observe buffalo first hand. However, mural overseers including Ed Rowan curtailed some of her buffalo images as too realistic and sexually “over-emphasized” (Puschendorf). Finally, after much correspondence and revised submissions, she received approval for her sketches, and by 1939, the mural was installed with public acclaim. “The residents of Hebron assisted in installation of this mural, and became big fans of Eldora.” (Community Discovered) She received a contract payment of $670, and was able to move out of the YWCA.

Information of her early and later life is from genealogical records and her obituary published on the day of her death, February 2, 1993. She was born March 28, 1910 in Weldona, Colorado to Maria and John Lorenzini, and was the oldest of seven children. Never marrying, she was self-supporting from an early age. She earned a B.A. degree from Colorado State College of Education (now University of Northern Colorado) at Greeley and taught art for several years. She then attended and graduated second in her class from the School of Fine Arts at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. To help pay for her education, she painted portraits, cared for children, and did household work as a maid, including in Denver in the early 1930s where she worked as a housemaid at 3306 Newport Street. After the years as a muralist, she lived in a Denver rooming house in the 1940s, and then worked for several years as an illustrator for Chrysler Corporation in Detroit, helping to design tanks for the military. Following this time period, she attended the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa to study space technology and worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) until she retired.

Eldora spent some of her retirement in Austin, Texas until she became ill and, in 1980 at age 70, moved to the Hemingford Community Care Center in Alliance, Nebraska where one of her brothers lived. She died there 13 years later in 1993, and is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Fort Morgan, Colorado.

Her memberships included the Denver Art Guild and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, where she exhibited in 1936 and had a solo exhibition in 1939.

Among her family records is a photo of Eldora proudly showing an eggshell mosaic, folk-art style whimsical figures, and genre painting of musicians and children playing games. In a letter to her brother Joe and his wife, Lena, in Austin, Texas, she wrote: “My paintings are my life and mean as much to me as your daughters mean to you.”

Eldora Lorenzini is not represented in the Museum of Nebraska Art collection.


Ancestry.com: Photograph of Eldora Lorenzini with eggshell mosaic and description of her folk art style; The Nebraska State Journal, (Lincoln, Nebraska), 12/3/1939; “Eldora P. Lorenzini, 82,” undated obituary in Alliance newspaper provided by Hemingford Community Care Center; Copy of letter of Jan. 2, 1971 to brother Joseph and sister-in-law Lena
Falk, Peter Hastings, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art, Volume II, Print
Find A Grave.com, “Eldora P. Lorenzini”
Kovinick, Phil and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, p. 370, Print
Noah, Reuben, “Stampeding Buffaloes Stopping Train,” Indians at the Post Office, Web, Dec. 2016
Puschendorf, L. Robert, Nebraska’s Post Office Murals, pp. 27, 52-57, Print
“The Hebron Nebraska Post Office Mural”, Community Discovered Westside 66 (communitydisc.westside66.org), Web, Dec. 2016
Researched, written, and copyrighted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier
Museum of Nebraska Art Project:
Their Place, Their Time: Women Artists in Nebraska, 1825-1945