James Daugherty was an American artist and noted illustrator of children’s books. In 1935 he received a commission from the Works Public Administration to paint a mural celebrating the life and times of General Israel Putnam. He did so, and the mural was duly hung in the Greenwich Town Hall from 1935-40 and then transferred to the Hamilton Avenue Elementary School in Greenwich, Connecticut.
The mural is immense at nine feet by 22 feet and depicts three events in the life of Putnam: his near legendary slaying of a wolf in its den circa 1743, his rescue in 1758 when, as a major in Roger’s Rangers, he was about to be burned at the stake by hostile Caughnawaga Indians and his escape from the advancing British at the Battle of Long Island in 1776. Although he was probably promoted beyond his capacity during the American Revolution when he attained the rank of major general, Putnam was a very brave man who led a daring life, and a firm patriot, someone who Americans of earlier generations, especially in New England, greatly admired.
Over time, the mural became dirty and worn. The painting was removed in 1998 to be restored. The restoration was a success and the painting was restored at the school, in all its original brilliant vibrancy. Then modern idiocy reared its head:
“We run a very tight ship in terms of behavior,” said Damaris Rau, the principal of the Hamilton Avenue school. “How can I then have a mural that depicts guns and knives, when I don’t accept that from my own children?”
Some parents, allegedly, thought that their kids would be scared because the scenes depicted were too violent:
“I thought it was phenomenal growing up, but it was a different time,” she said. “There was no Columbine or anything like that, and the schools have really done a lot of work on anti-violence. We are now promoting tolerance, accepting differences and all of that, and it doesn’t belong in an elementary school.”
The mural now hangs in the reference room of the Greenwich Public Library where kids, most of whom doubtless have taken a peek or two at slasher flicks, will be safe from its “violent imagery”. A people who teach their children to forget their nation’s heroes, should not be surprised if the nation in the future has no heroes to forget.