Laura Gardin Fraser

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Laura Gardin Fraser (1889–1966) was an American sculptor and the wife of sculptor James Earle Fraser.

Laura Gardin studied under Fraser at the Art Students League of New York from 1910 to 1912. Alone or with her husband she designed a number of U.S. coins, notably the Oregon Trail Memorial half dollar.

In 1931 she was the winner of the competition to design a new quarter with George Washington on the obverse. Her winning design was ignored by the then-Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, who selected a design by John Flanagan. Fraser's design was coined as a commemorative five-dollar gold piece in 1999. In 1924, she was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full Academician in 1931.

Laura Gardin Fraser is buried next to her husband in Willowbrook Cemetery in Westport, Connecticut.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Laura Gardin was born on September 14, 1889,[2] in Morton Park, a suburb at the time of Chicago. She received her elementary education in Morton Park schools. Laura attended school in Rye, New York, then Wadleigh and the Horace Mann School in New York City. She graduated from the latter in the class of 1907. At an early age she had shown an aptitude in modeling figures and working in clay, a talent she developed under the guidance of her mother.[3]

After high school, Laura studied at Columbia University briefly, then enrolled for work at the Art Students' League. It was during her years at the League that she met and studied under James Earle Fraser, whom she later married.


Although recognized principally for her medallic contributions,[4] Laura won outstanding commissions to do heroic-size sculpture. Most distinguished was her winning the competition to do the double equestrian statue of Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in Baltimore. The competition was held in 1936 and six eminent American sculptors (including Paul Manship and Lee Lawrie) including Laura Fraser were invited to submit designs. Laura was the only woman sculptor invited to enter the competition.[5]

She won competitions for the Charles Lindberg Congressional Medal, the official United States George Washington Bicentennial Medal, and the Benjamin Franklin Congressional Medal in honor of his 250th birthday. Fraser was awarded the following among her medallic commissions: the first issue of the long running Society of Medalists; the United States Army and Navy Chaplains' Medal, World War I; Irish Setter Club Medal; Morgan Horse Club Medal; Better Babies Medal, for Woman's Home Companion; Alabama Commemorative fifty cent piece; Ulysses S. Grant Memorial fifty cent piece and gold dollar; Fort Vancouver fifty cent piece; General Douglas MacArthur peso and fifty centavo coins for the Philippine government; Admiral Richard E. Byrd Medal and the Hubbard Medal, both for the National Geographic Society; the Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal for Pre Cambrian Research of the National Academy of Sciences; Massachusetts Tercentenary Medal; the United States Military Academy Sesquicentennial Medal; the Sylvanus Thayer Medal for the United States Military Academy; Bide-A-Wee Medal for human imagination; the American Bar Association Medal; the Smithsonian Institution's National Academy of Sciences Medal; the S. F. B. Morse American Geographic Society Medal; the Wolcott Medal for the Smithsonian Institution; the Oklahoma Semi-Centennial Medal; the Medal of Honor of the National Sculpture Society; and the American Numismatic Society Medal.


  1. ^ "Laura Gardin Fraser". Find A Grave. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Gilbert, Dorothy B., ‘’Who’s Who in American Art 1962’’, R.R. Bowker Company, New York, 1962
  3. ^ Rubenstein, Charlotte Streifer, ‘’American Women Artists: from Early Indian Times to the Present’’, Avon Publishers 1982 p. 191
  4. ^ Proske, Beatrice Gilman, Brookgreen Gardens Sculpture, Brookgreen Gardens, SC, 1943 p. 264
  5. ^ Rubenstein, Charlotte Streifer, ‘’American Women Sculptors: A History of Women Working in Three Dimensions’’, G. K. Hall and Co. Boston, 1990 p. 192