The Centennial Medal of the American Numismatic Society

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gherrmann44

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This is the second of what I hope will be three finished descriptions this week. This set is coming along rather nicely and I added the Grant Dollar to the Laura Gardin Fraser set two weeks ago. I hope that you enjoy my post, I am learning a lot about the Fraser's and I believe the cumulative descriptions are beginning to give me a glimpse into the heart of Laura Gardin Fraser.

The American Numismatic Society was founded in New York on April 6, 1858, to advance numismatic knowledge. In 1958 the Society had reached its 100th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion Laura Gardin Fraser, winner in 1926 of the Societys J. Sanford Saltus Award for distinguished accomplishment in medallic art, was commissioned to design the medal. A formal celebration of the Societys Centennial was held on April 12, 1958, at the auditorium of the Society's neighbor, the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The accompanying medal represents a continuance of the celebration and will be named the Centennial Medal of The American Numismatic Society. [1]

The Centennial Medal of the American Numismatic Society was made to order through the American Numismatic Society. This 89mm bronze medal struck by the Medallic Art Company had an original purchase price of $3.50. [2]

I am not sure how it came about that Mrs. Fraser got the commission to design the Centennial Medal of The American Numismatic Society. Nor am I in any way suggesting that there was any impropriety involved. However, I am discovering that many of Americas most prominent sculptors of the early twentieth-century were part of a small and tight knit community centered in New York at the Art Students League. Consequently, the lions share of commissions came to the members of this community. As an aside, I like to think of this community as the legacy of Augustus Saint-Gaudens since many of the accomplished sculptors of the early twentieth- century trained and apprenticed there under his instruction.

One of those Art Students League sculptors was Anna Hyatt Huntington. Laura Gardin Fraser and Anna Hyatt Huntington were not only associates of one another, but friends. In 1923 Anna Hyatt married philanthropist, Archer Huntington. Archer Huntington was the president of the American Numismatic Society between 1905 and 1910, after which he was the Societys honorary president and council-member until his death in 1955. [3]

Due to Annas health, the Huntingtons bought a 9,100 acre tract of land just south of Murrells Inlet, SC originally intending for it to be their winter home. Born of an artistic and natural vision, the Huntingtons opened a sculpture and botanical garden on their property in 1932 that they named BrookGreen Gardens. BrookGreen Gardens was built in part as place for Anna and other sculptors to display their works of art. Today BrookGreen Gardens is a registered national historic place with 1445 works of American sculpture. [4]

One of the 1445 sculptures in BrookGreen Gardens is an enormous granite sculpture of Pegasus and a rider in the clouds completed by Laura Gardin Fraser in 1954. The basis for the granite sculpture was Mrs. Fraser's 1927 sculpture entitled Air. This much smaller sculpture features Pegasus being ridden by Apollo which is symbolic of mans spirit and aspirations. [5]

Therefore, I think it was Pegasus that brought this around full circle resulting with the commission for the medal going to Laura Gardin Fraser. Pegasus was a favorite subject of Mrs. Frasers and she has the following to say about the design features of the Centennial Medal of The American Numismatic Society: The Science of Numismatics engages the imagination of the artist who creates a design in sculptured form, and the artisan who reproduces that model in permanent metal. When Nature petrified the first forms of animal and plant life, Nature made the first dies. The obverse of the American Numismatic Society Centennial Medal shows the potential archeologist, who, having broken the stone asunder, discovers a petrified animal form in one half and in the other a perfect impression of it, or the die.

Since tablets, coins and medals constitute the authority for historical data and our earliest civilizations expressed themselves in terms of their particular mythologies, on the reverse of the medal I used the Pegasus as a symbol of the arts, to indicate as in a vision, that numismatics was a science from the era of Pegasus to the geo-physical year of the harnessing of the atom.

To the fore of this mission are the artisans who are in the act of forging a medal, using such tools as are the basis of modern medal making. [6]

1 The accompanying COA for the Centennial Medal of the American Numismatic Society

2 The Numismatist, April 1958, pg. 406-407

3 The American Numismatic Society, http://www.numismatics.org/Archives/HuntingtonBio

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

5 medallicartcollector.com

6 The accompanying COA for the Centennial Medal of the American Numismatic Society

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