The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser
1930 Medal/MAco 1930-026





Coin Details

Origin/Country: United States
Design Description: MEDALLIC ART CO. MEDALS
Full Grade: NGC MS 64 BN
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 NGC Coin Price Guide

Owner Comments:

The Governor Endecott medallion struck by the Medallic Art Company in 1930 commemorates the Massachusetts Bay Tercentenary. Interestingly, this medallion was not commissioned by a group or a committee involved in the tercentenary celebration but as stated in the June 1931 issue of “The Numismatist,” for a private account. The mintage of the medallion is about 200 suggesting that this large 102 mm bronze medallion was only intended for limited distribution. [1]

While The Numismatist does not give the identity of the private account, a small paper insert included with the medallion does. The text is as follows, “Designed for William Crowninshield Endicott, esq. by the well known sculptress Mrs. Laura Gardin Fraser, of New York.” William C. Endicott was president of the Massachusetts Historical Society (1927-1936) and a descendant of Governor John Endecott. Subsequently, he may have only intended to distribute this medallion to his family and friends and/or possibly to the other members of the Massachusetts Historical Society. [2]

The obverse features a 3/4-profile bust of John Endecott flanked on both sides by the legend, “Massachusetts Bay Tercentenary.” Below the bust are the years of his birth (1588) and death (1665) delimited by a rosette.
John Endecott, an agent of the Massachusetts Bay Company landed at Salem in 1628. In 1629 he became the first governor of the colony. Except for one year, John Endecott served in the capacity of assistant, deputy governor, or governor (16 one year terms) for the remainder of his life. He has also served as the colony’s chief military officer. [3]

The most prominent device on the reverse is the Endecott Pear Tree. Unlike the obverse with a wide open field, the reverse is dominated by the Endecott Pear Tree. The pear tree appears underneath the legend, “Governor’s Garden.” Around the tree trunk at the base of the tree are the phrases “Salem 1630” and “Orchard Farm 1632.”

In 1630 Governor John Winthrop arrived in Salem with the “Charter of Massachusetts Bay” accompanied by close to 1000 Puritan refugees from England. Thus the tercentenary marks the anniversary of this event and the 1629 royal charter that established the colony and its governance. [4]

The year 1632 represents the approximate date the Endecott Pear Tree was planted by John Endecott on his “Orchard Farm” estate. Remarkably, this tree is still alive today and bearing fruit. The following is the text of the historical marker placed at the site of the Endecott Pear Tree. “Growing on this site is the oldest cultivated tree in America, planted ca. 1632 by John Endecott, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The “Endecott Pear Tree” is a living link to the earliest European settlers of our nation. Endecott was granted 300 acres where he settled and farmed, calling this property “Orchard Farm.” This ancient tree lives as a symbol of heritage, strength and resilience.” [5]

Artistically, Laura Gardin Fraser employed a few subtle design techniques to enhance the appearance of both the obverse and reverse of this medallion. The sheer size of this medallion at nearly four inches in diameter called for creative means to so-called, “Fill in the wide open fields of the medallion.”

Rather than sculpting a full right side profile of John Endecott with a truncated shoulder, Laura Gardin Fraser used a 3/4 bust. What is meant by “3/4 bust” is that instead of a one-side profile, both shoulders and a small portion of the opposite eyebrow are visible on the bust. This opening up of the shoulders and a slight tilt of the head towards the left does a lot to fill in the open fields without looking odd or out of place. Thus when you look at the medallion your eyes are drawn to the most prominent features on the device with the highest relief.

Laura Gardin Fraser utilizes an interesting technique when sculpting the pear tree that works as well on the reverse of the 102mm Endecott medallion as it does with the trees on the 15mm 1922 Grant gold dollar. Both these pieces feature clusters of leaves that have a smooth but uneven surface at the highest relief while being accentuated by more detailed leaves at a lower relief. This gives the appearance of billowing clusters of leaves that is especially effective on the Grant dollar because of the limiting size and thickness of the coin. Likewise, because of the size and thickness of the Endecott medallion, Mrs. Fraser has the freedom to pepper the billows of leaves at the highest relief with lightly detailed leaves and pears for a more aesthetically pleasing design. Furthermore, she is able to show more of the branches on the Endecott medallion than on the Grant dollar. The reverse illustration of this piece is a side-by-side comparison between the Grant dollar and the Endecott medallion.

I find it fascinated that as I familiarize myself with more of Laura Gardin Fraser’s medallic creations that I’m able to discern certain similarities in her designs. Those similarities can probably be summarized as her own unique artistic “signature.”

1 “The Numismatist” June 1931, pg. 394
2 Massachusetts Historical Society/Endicott Family Papers
3 Massachusetts Historical Society/Endicott Family Papers
4 Massachusetts Bay Colony | American History |

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