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The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser

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My new custom set is coming more into focus with this set description.


Every pioneer who paves a new trail, marks a trail for others to follow. Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966) is the first women ever to design a US minted coin or for that matter any other world coin (The Numismatist July 2013, p. 35). As a result, this has opened the way for many other talented female sculptor/medalists to break into what had been exclusively the realm of men. That said, I dont get the impression that Laura Gardin Fraser was particularly pugnacious about breaking down barriers. Rather, I believe it was her love of sculpture and artistic expression combined with her artistic prowess that marked the trail for others to follow. Thus, as a result of my admiration of Laura Gardin Fraser as a person, pioneer and artist I created this set entitled, The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser.


Even though Laura was the wife of famed Buffalo Nickel sculptor James Earle Fraser, she was certainly a sculptor in her own right. Some have incorrectly claimed that Laura Gardin Fraser's success was based on an undue influence from her husband, but the truth is that James had always encouraged her to be individualistic. Laura is quoted as saying this about her husband, 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 Meadowlark Gallery) Thus, I intend to showcase many of Lauras coins along with some of her 100 plus medals in the body of this set (The Numismatist July 2013, p. 35). Through her numismatic creations, I hope to catch a glimpse of Laura Gardin Frasers heart.


There is a considerable amount of research available on James Earle and Laura Gardin Fraser including the James Earle and Laura Gardin Fraser studio papers at the Dickinson Research Center and Syracuse University Libraries. Given all the past research done on Laura Gardin Fraser, I am unlikely to unearth anything new that had been previously unknown. Thus, within the narrative of my owner comments, I intend to offer my own opinion of Laura Gardin Frasers life passion and work based on the coins and medals themselves and on known facts about her. Where I have Lauras own comments on a particular piece, I will quote her directly. For who better can describe the intention of the medallic art than the artist themselves.


I also intend to gather my facts from reliable sources such as The Numismatist, various websites like The Meadowlark Gallery and books from my personal library such as End of the Trail: The Odyssey of a Statue (1973) by Dean Krakel. Then when I make an opinion based on a known fact I will name the source in parenthesis.


From a numismatic standpoint, this set will prove to be quite a challenge. While the coins are all readily available, many of the medals are not. The medals can be divided into two categories. The first are those medals intended for sale to the general public, such as the Society of Medalists and the Hall of Fame for Great Americans series. The second are those medals given out as an award. This category includes such medals as the 1913 Better Babies medal and the 1920 American Army and Navy Chaplains Medal. As a category, the second will be much more difficult and expensive to acquire. Difficult in that examples of these infrequently appear for sale and expensive as they tend to be much rarer. Therefore, this set will likely be years in the making and probably never complete. Still much of what I enjoy about this set is the hunt for new pieces.


If they say a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a thousand times more. Thus I am posting a link to a 1929 film made by The Medallic Art Company entitled, The Medal Maker. At one time this film was thought to be lost, but has since been found and restored by the Medallic Art Company. The film features the making of the 1929 National Sculpture Society Special Medal of Honor from its creation by Laura Gardin Fraser to its inaugural presentation to Daniel Chester French. The Medallic Art Company has edited the film to be narrated by the 11th and final chief engraver of the US Mint, Elizabeth Jones. The film can be viewed at The Medallic Art Companys web site via the following link.




Finally, I find it most interesting that prior to 1921 no woman had ever designed a United States coin and then only 60 years later to have Elizabeth Jones become the chief engraver of the US Mint. Consequently, I can reasonably conclude that women have gained a much more prominent role in numismatics based on their artistic skill. This then is as it should be.


This is a link to my new set, as always there is much more to come!






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The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City has a large collection of Jim and Laura Fraser family papers and other materials. The Smithsonian Archives of American Art has Fraser papers not in Syracuse or Oklahoma and the Smithsonian's Peter A. Juley Photograph Collection has many photos of design models made for the Frasers.


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