James Earle Fraser and Laura Gardin Fraser Studio Papers
Scope and Contents
The Papers contain correspondence, photographs, sketches, and buisness records that document the lives and artistic careers of James Earle Fraser and Laura Gardin Fraser.
- Creation: 1864-1870 and 1892-1965
Conditions Governing Access
The James Earle Fraser and Laura Gardin Fraser Studio Papers has no restrictions and is available for research. If you are interested in researching the materials, please contact the Dickinson Research Center to make an appointment.
Conditions Governing Use
The James Earle Fraser and Laura Gardin Fraser Studio Papers is the property of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Materials, even if owned by the NCWHM, may be protected under third party copyright. It is the patron’s responsibility to research and secure any such additional copyright and pay any required fees or royalties. It is not the intention of the NCWHM to impede upon any third party rights, and the NCWHM cannot be held responsible if the patron is involved in legal action due to violation of third party copyright claims.
Biographical / Historical
James Earle Fraser (November 4, 1876-October 11, 1953) was a nationally acclaimed sculptor in the early twentieth century. He is most known for his monumental works that can be found across the United States. One of his most famous monuments is “End of the Trail.” His wife, Laura Gardin Fraser (September 14, 1889-August 13, 1966), was also an award winning sculptor. She produced monuments, medals, trophies, and coins. She was the first woman to design a coin for the United States Treasury. The couple worked together to sculpt the design for the Oregon Trail Memorial Half Dollar. Their legacies are preserved in the many monuments, medals, and coins they sculpted over the course of their careers.
8.08 Linear Feet (14 legal document boxes, 5 oversize boxes)
Language of Materials
This collection contains the papers of American artists James Earle Fraser and Laura Gardin Fraser.
Series 1: James Earle Fraser (1910 – 1961)
This series contains all materials in the Papers that are specific to James. The biographical information is mostly copied news clippings, but there is a biography written by Laura Gardin Fraser and a typed memoir manuscript. Two interesting personal items in the biographical category are his Museum of Modern Art member identification, and his State of Connecticut driver’s license. The business files are journals in which he kept track of sculptures that had been purchased and payments to foundries. The correspondence tends to be business communication rather than personal. Highlights of the small personal correspondence include various fan mail, and letters from the first African American heavyweight world champion, Jack Johnson. The photographs are of his sculptures and personal life. The sculptures sub-series is categorized by type of art work. It includes coins, medals, monumental work, and a silverware pattern design. There is documentation about the process of creating “End of the Trail” and “Abraham Lincoln.” These monumental sculptures are on display at the Cowboy Museum. Other references to his art can be found in the sketchbooks.
Series 2: Laura Gardin Fraser (1892 – 1965) This series contains all materials in the Papers that are specific to Laura. The biographical information is mostly copied news clippings. The correspondence consists of business communication. There are diaries in which Laura writes about the day to day activities of the Frasers and progress of her artworks. One of the diaries has been transcribed. The photo albums and photographs are of her art work and her personal life. They often feature the family pets. The scrapbooks subseries contains a scrapbook her mother made in the late 1800s, and personal records of Fraser’s teen years. Her mother’s scrapbook documents the Gardin family including childhood photographs of Laura. Her personal scrapbook is filled with news clippings pertaining to stage actors and actresses, as well as high school mementos such as dance cards. The sculptures category has materials relating to her art work categorized by coins, figurative, medals, pins, and trophies. Fraser often sculpted coins and medals for the United States Government. All correspondence, design ideas, sketches, and final drafts are located in the sculptures sub-series. This series also contains Laura’s sketchbooks. Several of the sketchbooks are dedicated to detailed drawings of horses, including John, Miss Buck, and Fair Play. Laura sculpted a memorial to Fair Play that stands over his grave at the Elmendorf Thoroughbred Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. The famed Man o’ War thoroughbred was a sire of Fair Play. Also among the sketchbooks is one used during the Fraser’s trip to the Yucatan and corresponds to the photograph album from the same trip.
Series 3: Subject Files (1864 – 1964) This series contains reference material possibly used by both artists. The Frasers sculpted coins, medals, and monuments of many historical figures including presidents, inventors, and business moguls. They collected biographical information on most of their subjects, and the materials that were not marked who used them were placed in this series. The Frasers each created monuments that featured equestrians so there is extensive information about the anatomy of horses. This series also contains a large number of political cartoons by Jay Darling, a friend of the Frasers. There are also materials about artists from around the world that worked during the early twentieth century.
Series 4: Unattributed Materials (ca. 1900 – 1964) This series contains correspondence, various documents, photographs, posters, and sketches that make no reference to the owner. The items in this series could have been used or created by either Fraser.
Note to Researchers
Syracuse University Special Collections is home to a more extensive Fraser Papers. In the late 1990s, copies of some materials in the Syracuse Fraser Papers were given to the Dickinson Research Center. These copies have been made into their own collection: the Syracuse University Special Collections Copied James Earle and Laura Gardin Fraser Papers. If you are unable to find the information you need in either Fraser collection housed at the Dickinson Research Center, please visit Syracuse University Library’s Special Collections Research Center for their James Earle and Laura Gardin Fraser Papers.
The James Earle Fraser and Laura Gardin Fraser Studio Papers was purchased by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 1968 from Syracuse University.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description