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Laura Garden Fraser

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As I conduct my research I feel it's important to know the designers behind the coins.


Laura Garden Fraser was not only a noted coin designer: Grant $1 and Half Dollar, Alabama, Fort Vancouver, and the obverse of the Oregon Trail Half Dollar but, an accomplished sculptress also.



Here are some images from her scrapbook:










Some Bio information:


Mrs. James Earle Fraser was born Laura Gardin on September 14, 1889, in Chicago, daughter of John Emil and Alice Tilton Gardin. The Gardins had a summer home at Caldwell, New Jersey. It was here that Laura was given her first horse and developed her lifelong love of animals. Laura attended school in Rye, New York, then Wadleigh and Horace Mann High Schools. She graduated from the latter in the class of 1907. At an early age she had shown an aptitude in modeling figures and working in clay, a talent she developed under the guidance of her mother. Laura recalled, "Mother, whom we affectionately called Neo, was both a talented painter and musician. She taught us girls and encouraged us to study the arts." Leila Gardin Sawyer recalls Laura's talent in sculpture as a youngster. Among her first figures were "Rough Rider" and a portrait of actress "Maude Adams."


After high school, Laura studied at Columbia University briefly, then enrolled for work at the Art Students' League. It was during her years at the League that she met and studied under James Earle Fraser. A treasured album in the Laura Fraser collection has a number of photographs of the handsome young artist. The earliest photograph showing Laura and "Jimmy" together is dated 1908. Several pictures record an attractive Laura Gardin demonstrating great finesse as an aspiring sculptress in the Art Students' League. As a student in her first year at the League, she won the Saint-Gaudens Medal for her work. During her second year, she was awarded a scholarship, carrying with another year of study. In her last term, she won the Saint-Gaudens Figure Prize, a coveted trophy among students. From 1910 through 1912, Laura worked as an instructor under Fraser.


She became Jimmy's most illustrious disciple, so illustrating that they fell in love and were married on Thanksgiving Day, 1913. "He was a great teacher," Laura recalled. "Jimmy had the rare quality of being able to recognize what someone felt. He never liked to work in one specific manner. He encouraged individualism. Everyone loved him–especially me."


"The year following our marriage," Laura recalled, "we bought property in Westport. Our home was colonial in origin and we could date it back more than two hundred years. Then we built our studio in the center of forty acres. We designed it for our future together. It was thirty feet by sixty feet and a story and a half high. Big as it was, we kept it full most of the time. We loved it..." The Frasers spent their winters at their New York apartment and studio. Laura Fraser's life work, like that of her husband, was tremendous.


Although recognized principally for her Medallic contributions, she won outstanding commissions to do heroic-size sculpture. Most distinguished was her winning the competition to do the double equestrian statue of Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in Baltimore. The competition was held in 1936 and six eminent American sculptors including Laura Fraser were invited to submit designs. Laura was the only woman sculptor invited to enter the competition.


"Jimmy and I had standing jokes between us. One of them was when I finished a job and it was presented, we would wager as to how long it would be before someone would comment to me, ‘Bet Mr. Fraser helped you on this one.' One time in fun I snapped back at a wealthy patron, ‘Just who is this James Earle Fraser I keep hearing about?'"


Enjoy your coins and the history behind them. :grin:



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Lee it's been a while since your last research post. Now I fully realize how much I enjoy them.


Thanks for putting in the effort bro!

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That is neat information.

We're always enjoying the coins...Some backround info is good to know !

Boy, she sure had some skills !



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