The 1923 Morgan Horse Club Award Medal
Entry posted by coinsbygary ·
I have finally completed all the write-ups for The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser. This medal was the last write-up for me to complete. Next year I'll have more medals waiting in the wing to add to this set including the 1912 National Institute of Social Sciences medal and the scarce 1930 Endecott Massachusetts Bay Tercentenary medal.
As a young girl, Laura Gardin had always enjoyed her family's summer home in New Jersey where she especially enjoyed riding her horse. It was here that she developed her lifelong love of animals. As a result, it is not unreasonable to speculate that her passion for animals significantly contributed to her skill at sculpting animals and especially horses. 
In 1923 Laura Gardin Fraser had two significant commissions for medals involving horses. The first was the "Horse Association of America Polo Pony Medal". To more accurately sculpt the clay model for this medal, Mrs. Fraser borrowed some polo mallets from the Horse Association of America. Mallet in hand, Mrs. Fraser would practice striking the balls while on her horse at full gallop in a vacant lot adjacent to her Westport, Connecticut home. This in turn gave her a better feel for the polo rider and his mount. Subsequently, it wasn't too long before the neighbors took notice and pick-up polo matches were in full swing! 
Her other work in 1923 was "The Morgan Horse Club" medal. There are two uniface versions of this medal. The obverse uniface medal features a single left facing Morgan horse against a mountainous backdrop and the phrase, "The Morgan Horse Club" around the upper rim. The reverse uniface medal features a touching scene of a Morgan mare with her foal and the word "Vermont" as its legend. The state of Vermont is significant in that it was here that the Morgan horse pedigree originated. Beside the two uniface issues, there is a single medal that features the devices of both uniface medals. Later "The Morgan Horse Club" changed their name to "American Morgan Horse Association". In 1972 they re-issued the medal but removed the word club from the obverse legend to reflect this change.
The medal I have pictured as the reverse is an uncertified silver plated "obverse uniface" of the re-issued medal. The reverse of this re-struck medal has the initials "AMHA" engraved on it which stands for the "American Morgan Horse Association". Saddle Seat represents a type of riding style that accentuates the horses trot. The date is 1974. The MS-64 certified medal pictured as the obverse is probably one of the original 1923 medals and was most definitely minted earlier than 1972. Furthermore, this medal has both the left facing Morgan horse obverse and the mare and foal reverse.
The founding sire of the Morgan horse pedigree was born in 1789 with the given name "Figure". The horses owner was Justin Morgan who was a teacher, composer, businessman, and horseman. Figure was an especially prized horse because of his natural ability to pass on his distinguishing characteristics through several generations. Figure died in 1821, the result of an untreated kick from another horse. The Morgan horse is particular known for its use by the military as a calvary and artillery horse during the civil war. The Morgan horse is also especially well suited to pull a carriage. Morgan horses as a breed are especially attached to their owners. The American Morgan Horse Association has as a motto on their webpage header, "The Horse That Chooses You".  
Laura Gardin Fraser's early works with horse themed medals helped to prepare her for what some call her greatest work. In 1936 Mrs. Fraser won a $100,000 commission to sculpt a double equestrian sculpture of Civil War Generals Lee and Jackson. This project would take 12 years to complete culminating with the statues' dedication at Wyman Park in Baltimore on May 1, 1948.
In an interview with Dean Krakel, Laura Gardin Fraser recalls, "Hard work, horses, research, and imagination went into the statues, and twelve years of my life. A sculptor's life is measured in large chunks of time. A statue like the Lee and Jackson becomes a part of you. It's like raising a child. Of course Jimmy and I carried on other projects at the same time. If a project wasn't literally big and big in importance, then it wasn't really worth the while. Of the one hundred thousand dollars I received for Lee and Jackson, I might have netted fifteen thousand dollars. The architecture alone cost fifty thousand dollars. Then there was the casting and shipping cost. Of course, there is no satisfaction quite like that of a beautifully complete and acceptable creation. Jimmy liked my Lee and Jackson--that was enough."
An art critic for the Bridgeport Connecticut Evening News paid Laura Gardin Fraser quite a compliment when based on the strength of her horses, he compared her to famous French animal artist, Rosa Bonheur, calling Mrs. Fraser the "Rosa Bonheur of Sculpture". 
1 End of the Trail, the Odyssey of a Statue" by Dean Krakel pg. 32
2 "The Numismatist" July 2013; "Canine & Equine The Art of Laura Gardin Fraser" by Carl Stang
3 Origin of the Morgan Horse; http://www.morganhorse.com/about_morgan/history/
4 The Morgan Horse-Profiles in History: Introduction; http://www.morganhorse.com/museum/morgan-horse-history/the-morgan-horse-profiles-in-his/
5 "End of the Trail, the Odyssey of a Statue" by Dean Krakel pg. 37-38
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