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The 1952 West Point USMA Sesquincentenial Medal

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Over her long and distinguished career Laura Gardin Fraser had a very cordial relationship with the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Both Frasers loved America and the Armed Forces of the United States. Many of their military related commissions not only included medallic art, but also full size sculptures and smaller bronzes.


There are three significant works Mrs. Fraser completed for The United States Military Academy. The first is a 1952 bronze medal commemorating the sesquicentennial of the USMA. Struck by the Medallic Art Corporation, this medal was presented to the parents of the cadets who entered the academy that year. A small insert reads, "A memento of the United States Military Academy to the parents or guardians of the cadets who entered the Military Academy in the Sesquicentennial Year".


The medal's obverse displays the flaming torch of leadership, the sword of valor, and a laurel wreath representing victory. The reverse emphasizes the United States Military Academy Coat of Arms set underneath a rising sun. Across the face of the Union Shield is a sword and the helmet of Pallas Athena. Athena is associated with the arts of war and her helmet represents wisdom and learning. Perched atop the shield is a bald eagle clutching a bundle of 13 arrows and a scroll. The scroll bears the academy's motto, "Duty, Honor, Country" and the words, "West Point, MDCCCII (1802) USMA. In front of the eagle's right wing is an oak branch signifying strength and on the left an olive branch signifying peace. [1][2]


Laura Gardin Fraser's next work for the United States Military Academy was the 1957 Sylvanus Thayer medal. This medal exhibits a profile bust of Sylvanus Thayer on its obverse and the coat of arms on the reverse. The Sylvanus Thayer medal is awarded annually by the USMA Association of Graduates to an outstanding citizen who in service to America exemplifies the USMA values of duty, honor, and country. Sylvanus Thayer known as the "father of the Military Academy" served as the United States Military Academy's Superintendent from 1817 until 1833. Under his leadership the USMA became a pioneering engineering school whose graduates were largely responsible for the construction of the nations initial rail lines, bridges, harbors, and roads. [3][4]


Laura Gardin Fraser once said that, "A sculptors life is measured in large chunks of time." Three 9x4 bronze relief panels chronicling almost five centuries of American history represents one of those large chunks of time in Mrs. Fraser's life. The following is quoted in an interview with Dean Krakel concerning the aforementioned panels, "I began this project making little vignettes of historical figures in clay. We seem to know so little about American history, and so having begun this in 1935, I began to accumulate an interesting collection. I started doing events from history and animals purely American like--the skunk. Then I started sorting and organizing my figures in chronological order, placing them on large tablets. These became like the leaves of a book. This essentially is how I started the project. For a long time I thought I was doing them for love of my country, as no one or institution seemed interested."


Eventually, the United States Military Academy took an interest in Mrs. Fraser's panels and they were cast into bronze. Then finally in 1964 after nearly 30 years, they were unveiled at the dedication of the Academy's new library in the portico of the library's entrance. The first panel begins with the exploration of Leif Ericson and extends all the way through to the Declaration of Independence and Revolutionary War. The second panel includes westward expansion, the development of American political parties, and the Mexican, Civil, and Indian Wars. Panel three illustrates industrial development, modern inventions, labor unions, the depression, the World Wars, and the atomic bomb. [5]


1 The United States Military Academy West Point, http://www.usma.edu/news/sitepages/coat %20of%20arms%20and%20motto.aspx

2 Medal Commemorates West Point Sesquicentennial by Fred Reed 10/4/99, http:// www.pcgs.com/News/Medal-Commemorates-West-Point-Sesquicentennial

3 The United States Military Academy West Point, http://www.usma.edu/wphistory/SitePages/ Home.aspx

4 Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvanus_Thayer_Award

5 End of the Trail, The Odyssey of a Statue by Dean Krakel



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One of those "utilitarian" medals lacking in artistic merit - but Fraser did what the client wanted.

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