The NYU Hall of Fame for Great Americans Medals

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gherrmann44

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The New York University Hall of Fame for Great Americans is a 630 foot outdoor colonnade featuring the sculpted busts of 98 out of the 102 honorees elected into it. The Hall of Fame was conceived by Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, (Chancellor of New York University from 1891 to 1910) and was formally dedicated on May 30, 1901. The Hall of Fame for Great Americans currently stands on the campus of the Bronx Community College. (New York University closed due to financial difficulties in 1973). [1] [2]

The first of its kind in America, the inspiration for the hall is explained by the following paragraph copied directly from the Mary Lyon Medal COA: The spirit of The Hall of Fame is reflected in the following lines from the Old Testament: "Let us now praise famous men, by whom the Lord hath wrought great glory....All these were honored in their generations, and were the glory of their times..." Carved in stone on the pediments of The Hall of Fame are the words: "By wealth of thought, or else by mighty deed, They served mankind in noble character. In worldwide good they live forevermore."

Mary Lyon (1797-1849) served as an educator and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1905. A pioneer in higher education for women, Mary Lyon opened the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now College). The original curriculum included mathematics, English, science, philosophy and Latin. Under her guidance and with her constant labor, the school gained a national reputation for its enlightened curriculum and high academic standards, a reputation maintained to this day. [3]

The practice of issuing accompanying medals for the Hall of Fame honorees came about through a coalition between New York University, the National Sculpture Society to oversee and approve the designs, the Medallic Art Company to manufacture the medals, and the Coin and Currency Institute to market them. A full page add in the October 1962 issue of "The Numismatist" introduced the 1 3/4 inch medals for sale in either silver or bronze. Issued at a rate of about one or two per month, the issue price of the silver medal was $14 while the bronze medal sold for $3. The program which began in 1962 ended in 1974 with 96 medals created by 42 sculptors. In addition to the smaller silver and bronze medals, there were also larger 3 inch bronze medals available for purchase.

The success of the Hall of Fame medal program was due in part to the art director at the Medallic Art Company, Julius Lauth. Julius knew which sculptors identified with the theme of each medal and as a result the commission for the medals was first offered to the sculptor who had completed the bronze bust on the colonnade. Therefore, since Laura Gardin Fraser did the bust of Mary Lyon in 1927, she got the commission for the accompanying medal. Mrs. Fraser completed the sketches for the Mary Lyon Medal and had them approved by the by the art committee before her death on August 14, 1966. [3] [4] [5]

At Mrs. Fraser's death, Julius Lauth assigned sculptor Karl Gruppe to finish the models for the Mary Lyon medal based on the sketches done by Mrs. Fraser. Karl Gruppe, an associate of Laura Gardin Fraser in her Art Students League days was chosen to complete the medal because his artistic style was similar to that of Mrs. Fraser's. [4]

The following is a description taken from the 1967 dated Mary Lyon Medal COA: "The obverse is a fine classical profile portrait of Miss Lyon; the reverse is a typical scene depicting her continuing role as an educator, and is a capsule story of her dedicated life".

Over her long career as a sculptor, I find it interesting that Laura Gardin Fraser was equally capable of designing medals that were feminine in nature as is the Mary Lyon medal and masculine as is the obverse of the Oregon Trail commemorative. Of certainty, Laura Gardin Fraser was a truly remarkable sculptor.

1 Bronx Community College, http://www.bcc.cuny.edu/halloffame/

2 Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hall_of_Fame_for_Great_Americans

3 Mary Lyon Medal COA

4 Medalblog, Hall of Fame Series - The Most Successful Medal Program by D. Wayne Johnson, December 3, 2012

5 Hall of Fame at New York University Medal Series by D. Wayne Johnson 2004, Medal Collectors of America; http://www.medalcollectors.org/Guides/HFGA/HFGA.html

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