One of 20th century America’s greatest sculptors was Laura Gardin
Fraser. A Chicago native, she was identified with New York City and
Connecticut throughout her professional career. As the youthful Laura
Gardin, she studied at the Art Students League in 1907 to 1910, a
pupil of James Earle Fraser.
She created notable medals for organizations of animal fanciers,
such as the Morgan Horse Club and the Irish Setter Club of America in
the early 1920s. With its precise rendering of the setter and an Irish
harp, the latter medal shows her skill in depicting specific breeds.
In 1930, her portraits of Arctic flier Adm. Richard Byrd and Col.
Charles Augustus Lindbergh demonstrated her mastery both of
portraiture and the excitement of pioneer aviation.
Later in life she created the Oklahoma Run medal with a design
depicting a land rush of pioneer settlers, horses, mules, dogs and
wagons in frantic motion. Her imaginative design for the American
Numismatic Society’s 50th anniversary in 1958 suggested how
accidentally splitting a rock with a fossil inside might have
suggested the concept of dies to a muscular dawn man.
One of her most successful animal medals honored Bide-A-Wee, a
prominent facility rescuing dogs, cats and all manner of other
animals, protecting them and making them available to qualified pet
lovers for adoption. Founded in 1903 by Flora D’Auby Jenkins Kibbe,
Bide-A-Wee (now rendered Bideawee) has devoted 108 years to its work
in facilities on Manhattan’s East 38 Street, and on Long Island at
Wantagh and Westhampton.
Named for the Scottish expression “Stay a While,” the organization
maintains facilities for rescue, adoption, training of pet owners in
proper care of animals and even operates pet cemeteries.
The uniface (one-sided) bronze Bide-A-Wee medal is undated, but is
signed laura gardin sculptor, which would seem to date it before her
marriage in 1913.
It measures 70 millimeters and is 3.5 millimeters thick at 6:00,
with edge inscribed medallic art co. n.y. The obverse presents three
dogs, the leftmost sitting upright with collar and harness, the center
a taller dog with one paw raised, the right a dog with heavier snout
gazing right. The legend reads bide a wee, loyalty — devotion,
forgiveness — humor.
The scarce medal has fascinated generations of animal lovers.
David T. Alexander, a longtime numismatic researcher, is a
researcher/cataloger for Stack’s Bowers Galleries.