The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser
1923 Medal/MAco 1923-017





Coin Details

Full Grade: NGC MS 64
Owner: coinsbygary

Set Details

Custom Sets: The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser
Competitive Sets: This coin is not competing in any sets.
Research: NGC Coin Explorer

Owner Comments:

As a young girl, Laura Gardin had always enjoyed her family’s summer home in New Jersey where she especially enjoyed riding her horse. It was here that she developed her lifelong love of animals. As a result, it is not unreasonable to speculate that her passion for animals significantly contributed to her skill at sculpting animals and especially horses. [1]

In 1923 Laura Gardin Fraser had two significant commissions for medals involving horses. The first was the “Horse Association of America Polo Pony Medal." Her other work was “The Morgan Horse Club” medal. There are two uniface versions of "The Morgan Horse Club" medal. The obverse uniface medal features a single left facing Morgan horse against a mountainous backdrop and the phrase, “The Morgan Horse Club” around the upper rim. The reverse uniface medal features a touching scene of a Morgan mare with her foal underneath the legend “Vermont." The state of Vermont is significant in that it was here that the Morgan horse pedigree originated. Beside the two uniface issues, there is a single medal that features the devices of both uniface medals. Later “The Morgan Horse Club” changed their name to “American Morgan Horse Association” and in 1972 they re-struck the medal but removed the word club from the obverse legend to reflect the name change.

The 76mm bronze medal pictured above as the obverse incorporates both uniface designs, the left facing Morgan horse as the obverse and the mare and foal as the reverse. The medal I have pictured above as the reverse is a silvered bronze obverse uniface medal without the word club in the legend. The reverse of that medal has the initials “AMHA” engraved in it for the “American Morgan Horse Association.” Saddle Seat represents a type of riding style that accentuates the horses trot and the date is 1974.

The founding sire of the Morgan horse pedigree was born in 1789 with the given name “Figure”. Figure’s owner was Justin Morgan who was a teacher, composer, businessman, and horseman. Figure was an especially prized horse because of his natural ability to pass on his distinguishing characteristics through several generations. Figure died in 1821, the result of an untreated kick from another horse. The Morgan horse is particularly known for its use by the military as a calvary and artillery horse. The Morgan horse is also well suited to pull a carriage. Morgan horses as a breed are especially attached to their owners. The American Morgan Horse Association has as a motto on their webpage header, “The Horse That Chooses You”. [2] [3]

Laura Gardin Fraser's early works with horse themed medals helped to prepare her for what some call her greatest work. In 1936 Mrs. Fraser won a $100,000 commission to sculpt a double equestrian sculpture of Civil War Generals Lee and Jackson. This project would take 12 years to complete culminating with the statues’ dedication at Wyman Park in Baltimore on May 1, 1948.

In an interview with Dean Krakel, Laura Gardin Fraser recalls, “Hard work, horses, research, and imagination went into the statues, and twelve years of my life. A sculptor’s life is measured in large chunks of time. A statue like the Lee and Jackson becomes a part of you. It’s like raising a child. Of course Jimmy and I carried on other projects at the same time. If a project wasn’t literally big and big in importance, then it wasn’t really worth the while. Of the one hundred thousand dollars I received for Lee and Jackson, I might have netted fifteen thousand dollars. The architecture alone cost fifty thousand dollars. Then there was the casting and shipping cost. Of course, there is no satisfaction quite like that of a beautifully complete and acceptable creation. Jimmy liked my Lee and Jackson—that was enough.”

An art critic for the Bridgeport Connecticut Evening News paid Laura Gardin Fraser quite a compliment when based on the strength of her horses, he compared her to famous French animal artist, Rosa Bonheur, calling Mrs. Fraser the “Rosa Bonheur of Sculpture”. [4]

1 End of the Trail, the Odyssey of a Statue” by Dean Krakel pg. 32
2 Origin of the Morgan Horse;
3 The Morgan Horse-Profiles in History: Introduction;
4 “End of the Trail, the Odyssey of a Statue” by Dean Krakel pg. 37-38

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