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The hidden history of Penn State’s Addams Family mural

The New Yorker has the story. It starts with Penn State alumnus Walter C. Goldstein, who was known as the Hampton’s Conrad Hilton (that original tycoon of the eponymous empire). When Goldstein acquired the Dune Deck in the 1950’s, he found himself owner of the 14′ by 4′ mural. Goldstein later donated the artwork to the University.

The Addams Family is named for their artist, Charles Addams, a longtime New Yorker cartoonist. And indeed, the quintessential black-ink aesthetic of the New Yorker comics can be seen in the Addams mural, which draws the eye to an unseen horror being reeled to shore.

Explains the New Yorker’s Paul Karasik:

The family members, who first appeared in the pages of The New Yorker, in 1938, were not properly christened with individual names until the début of the “Addams Family” TV show, in 1964. Nonetheless, here they all are: Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, Wednesday, Pugsley, and their butler, Lurch, at the beach.

Charles “Chas” Addams was profiled in 1953 by now-defunct Look Magazine, which featured this image of the artist standing in front of the Addams mural.

Penn State Libraries Facilities Administrator Richard Ricardo told the New Yorker that the painting will be moved as part of the ongoing renovations, detailed below.

Truth be told, I had no idea the University owned this gem of Americana. It’s on my list next time I visit State College.

Have you seen the mural in the library? Would love to read some memories in the comments!

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