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A Beautiful Medal for a Worthy Recipient

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The Buffalo Nickel since its release in 1913 is still a collector favorite. Today the legacy of the Buffalo Nickel and its sculptor live on in the 2001 American Buffalo Silver Dollar and $50, .9999 fine, Gold Buffalo. As such, when collectors hear the name of James Earle Fraser they almost invariably think of the Buffalo Nickel.

Likewise, but to a smaller degree are some of the medallic works of Laura Gardin Fraser and in particular her rendition of “Fame” featured on the obverse of the National Institute of Social Sciences gold medal. The National Institute of Social Sciences gold medal, first awarded in 1913 continues to be awarded today on an annual basis. The obverse image of Laura Gardin Fraser’s portrayal of Fame appears prominently at the head of every page on the National Institute of Social Sciences website. As such the image of this beautiful medal is permanently associated with the National Institute of Social Sciences and it is a legacy to the artistic abilities of Laura Gardin Fraser. [1]

The National Institute of Social Sciences was founded in 1912 under the charter of the American Social Science Association incorporated by Act of Congress, January 28, 1899. From Article II of their constitution the object of The National Institute of Social Sciences is to, “promote the study of Social Science and to reward distinguished services rendered to humanity, either by election to the National Institute, or by the bestowal of medals or other insignia.”

Consequently, the annual awarding of their gold medal is one of their primary functions as an organization. This medal is of such importance that its design is set forth in Article XI of their constitution as follows: “Presentation medals shall bear the Figure of Fame resting on a Shield, holding wreaths of laurel. The shield to bear the name of the Institute. In the left hand, the figure to hold a palm branch. The reverse to show a torch with a name plate and Dignus Honore, the motto of the Institute.” The Latin phrase Dignus Honore is translated, “Worthy of Honor.” [2]

It is said that within the context of armed conflict you will find both the best and worst of humanity on display. To recognize the humanitarian contributions of those persons involved with the war effort during Word War 1, the National Liberty Committee of American Social Science Association adopted the following resolution dated January 18, 1918: “In view of the fact that, except in the army and navy, no provision has been made by any competent authority for the recognition by a medal or other suitable insignia for notable humanitarian or patriotic services for the national welfare: Therefore, the executive committee of the American Social Science Association, one of the oldest of nationally incorporated bodies, recommends that a medal to be designated "Liberty Service" medal be authorized. The committee further recommends that the National Institute of Social Sciences be empowered, in accordance with the object of its organization, to award and bestow said medal upon such person or persons as have rendered or may render notable services which merit such special mark of distinction and recognition.” [3]

The effect of the National Liberty Committee resolution was that Liberty and Patriotic Service medals were awarded to a number of individuals, both civilian and governmental for their service in a time of war from 1918-1920. The medal in my collection is a bronze Patriotic Service Medal awarded to the Director of the Bureau of Field Nursing Service of the American Red Cross, Clara D. Noyes. The following is the text of her medal citation and response.

July 1, 1919

To Miss Clara D. Noyes,

As Director of the Bureau of Field Nursing Service of the American Red Cross at national headquarters, you rendered to your country and its wounded a service of high and inestimable value. During the entire period of the war you had charge of the distribution and placing of all the Red Cross nurses assigned to the army, navy and public health. Under your direction, 19,877 nurses have passed through your bureau.

American Red Cross, Washington, D. C.

My dear Dr. Johnson:

It is with keen appreciation of the honor conferred upon me that I acknowledge the receipt of the citation and the Patriotic Service Medal, presented to me by the National Institute of Social Sciences, in recognition of the services I have performed during the war as Director of the Bureau of Field Nursing Service of the American Red Cross. In the selection and assignment of approximately 20,000 nurses to military and civilian duty, I was always keenly alive to the privilege that had been accorded me. Any work or anxiety connected with this responsibility has been more than offset by the devotion, the courage, and the fine character of service rendered by the nurses while engaged in the care of our sick and wounded soldiers and sailors, and the civilian population of our allies. In the name of the nurses I represent, and my own, I again thank you for the honor conferred upon me.

Believe me, Very Sincerely yours, Clara D. Noyes, Acting Director, Department of Nursing. [4]

According to Medallic Art Company historian D. Wayne Johnson, Laura Gardin Fraser utilized one of eleven monograms when signing her medallic creations. Of interest to me is that she signed this medal “Laura Gardin Fecit,” which is reminiscent of C. GOBRECHT F. on the Gobrecht Dollar. Thus, as long as the National Institute of Social Sciences awards their gold medal, those persons associated with the institute are reminded that “Laura Gardin made it.” [5]

As I become more familiar with the work of Laura Gardin Fraser and by extension the work of her husband, James Earle Fraser I am able to see certain similarities in their medallic art. For instance, except for the flame, the torch on the reverse of this 1913 medal is exactly the same as the torch on the obverse of the 1914 American Museum of Public Safety Edward H. Harriman Memorial Medal modeled by James Earle Fraser. Furthermore, I also see similarities in the fonts both Frasers used on their medals. When I mentioned this to a friend who is much more knowledgeable in all things “Fraser” than I, he suggested that if James couldn’t expeditiously finish a medal, Laura would complete the minor devices of the medal such as the torch and legend on the aforementioned public safety medal. Accordingly, it seems that not only did the Frasers have a good marriage but that they were also an artistic team complementing each other.

1. http://www.socialsciencesinstitute.org/

2. Proceedings of the ... annual meeting of the National Institute of Social Sciences., 9th:no.1 (1922) pg. 99-100

3. Journal of the National Institute of Social Sciences Volume IV April 1, 1918 pg. 173

4. Journal of the National Institute of Social Sciences Volume VI July 1, 1920 pg. 103

5. http://medalartists.com/fraser-laura-gardin.html

The 1913 National Institute of Social Services Medal_small.png

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