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The Branding of the Medallic Art Company

The branding of the Medallic Art Company really began with the founding of the Art Students League of New York in 1875. In the early 20th century New York City became the arts center of America. It is no wonder with instructors like Augustus Saint-Gaudens, James Earle Fraser, Daniel Chester French, and students like Laura Gardin. (This same Laura Gardin would later marry James Earle Fraser in 1913).

The Medallic Art Company of New York was founded in 1903 by French brothers Henri and Felix Weil. The proximity of the Medallic Art Company and the Art Students League soon developed into a symbiotic relationship. The Art Students League provided the medallic designs, and the Medallic Art Company struck and distributed the medals. As a collector of Laura Gardin Fraser's coins and medals, I learned that most of her medals were struck by the Medallic Art Company of New York.

In celebration of the 1917 completion of the Catskill Aqueduct in New York, the American Numismatic Society based in New York issued a three-inch (75.6mm) commemorative medallion. It was modeled by Daniel Chester French. (Daniel Chester French is the sculptor of the seated Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial). The medallions were cast, not struck, in bronze and silver by the Medallic Art Company. Mintages were limited by subscriptions to 57 bronze and 12 silver pieces. 38mm bronze replicas of the official medallions were also struck by the Medallic Art Company. The mintage of the so-called dollars (HK-667) is unknown, but they have a rarity of R-5. (Fuld rarity scale for tokens of 75-200 pieces). My recently purchased medal is one of the so-called dollars.

The obverse features a right-facing bust of a laurel-crowned woman in high relief. As such, this beautiful young woman probably represents Greater New York. The reverse features a male figure with water gushing out of a vase resting on his shoulder against the faint outline of the Catskill Mountains. The reverse represents the 92-mile Catskill Aqueduct that still supplies New York City with 40% of its water. The reverse inscription reads, "To Commemorate the Completion / of the Catskill Aqueduct / An Achievement of Civic Spirit / Scientific Genius and Faithful Labor / 1905 New York 1917."

Daniel Chester French died on October 7, 1931. In 1932, the Medallic Art Company struck a tribute medal to him using the obverse laureate head of the 1917 medal. The reverse without any devices has the following inscription, "A / token in / remembrance of / Daniel Chester French / National Sculpture Society / February 10, 1932 / Medallic Art Company / New York." The obverse head became known as the "French Head" when in 1932, Clyde Trees, president of Medallic Art Company, chose this obverse device as the company's official trademark. Soon the iconic French Head appeared in the company's advertising, on its stationery, and quite often on medallic work. This continued until Medallic Art & Mint (The combined Medallic Art Company and Northwest Territorial Mint) was bought out by Medalcraft Mint, Inc. in 2018.

An intriguing golden thread links Laura Gardin Fraser, Daniel Chester French, and the Medallic Art Company. In 1929 Laura Gardin Fraser designed the National Sculpture Society Special Medal of Honor. This medal was struck by the Medallic Art Company and presented to the Society's first recipient, Daniel Chester French, for his seated Lincoln sculpture.

1917_Catskill_Aqueduct_HK-667.jpg

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Another excellent post, Gary.  I have been toying with the idea of posting my ideas about why we don't have any great, new art on our current coins.  As you mentioned in your entry, the great artists taught the next generation.  Did Laura Gardin Fraser have any notable apprentices/students?

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The Medallic Art Company has produced some gorgeous high relief and extra high relief medals over the years. Artists like French were one of the reasons why.

I love that obverse portrait. Simple, elegant, beautiful.

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On 1/9/2022 at 9:55 PM, jgenn said:

...Did Laura Gardin Fraser have any notable apprentices/students?

None that I know of. However, all the great artists had assistants and apprentices that took care of all the grunt work in the artists studios. Some even ended up sitting in as models. For their efforts young aspiring artists could glean all sorts of tips from the greats of their day. For any artist to be selected by the Frasers to assist them in their studio would have been a great honor and privilege. 

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