Laura Gardin was born on September 14, 1889. When she was little, she went to Morton Park schools. Laura later attended school in Rye, New York then the Horace Mann School in New York City. James Fraser taught her at the Art Students League of New York. She and James fell in love and were married.
After she married James
Earl Fraser, she designed 1921 Alabama centennial half dollar. It was made to
commemorate the 100th anniversary of Alabama's admission into the
Union. The obverse depicts Portraits of William Bibb and Thomas Kilby facing
left. William Bibb was Alabama's first governor and Thomas Kilby was the
governor at that time. Thomas Kilby and was the first live person to be on a US
commemorative coin. 22 stars are in the field because Alabama was the 22nd
state to enter the Union. A variety with 30,000 minted showing "2X2" behind the
portraits were also produced. The Reverse depicts the Alabama seal which
portrays an eagle with raised wings, holding arrows in its talons and a scroll
in its beak the scroll has the state motto. The state seal was changed in 1939. The
total mintage number was 100,000 pieces. 70,000 were minted and 5,000 were
returned to the mint to be melted. The sale price was $1.00 each.
Laura went on to design other coins. In 1922 Laura Gardin Fraser designed the Grant Memorial Half Dollar to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Ulysses S. Grant. The Obverse depicts a portrait of Ulysses S. Grant facing right in a military uniform. The reverse depicts a wooden house representing Grant's birthplace in Point Pleasant, Ohio. There is a fence in front of the home and maple trees surrounding the house.
The money from the sale of the coin was to renovate the Grant birthplace and acquire land surrounding the home. 250,000 pieces were minted.
The Grant Memorial Half Dollar has two varieties. The variety with a star in the field initially sold for $1.00 and later $1.50, the star has no significance and appears above the letter "N" in Grant. The Plain variety initially sold for $1.00 and later $0.75
In 1925 Laura designed the Fort Vancouver Centennial Half made to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Fort Vancouver being found and to pay for the celebration held in the city of Vancouver, Washington. The obverse depicts a bust of Dr. John McLoughlin, the founder of Fort Vancouver His name appears beneath his image. The reverse depicts a trapper holding a gun. Behind the trapper is Fort Vancouver and Mount Hood. They were sold for 1 dollar each. The maximum number authorized was 300,000 pieces, 50,000 were struck but 35,034 were returned to the mint to be melted. Even though they were minted in San Francisco no mintmark appears.
Laura and James collaborated together to design the Oregon Trail Memorial Half Dollar. It was minted from 1926-1939 to commemorate the Oregon Trail and to raise money for markers at important points along the existing trail. Laura Gardin Fraser designed the reverse. The reverse depicts a Native American standing erect. He is wearing a headdress and is carrying a blanket and bow. There is a map of the United States with a line of wagons heading west in the background.
The Maximum Number minted was 6,000,000 coins for the entire issue. Only 264,250 were minted and 61,317 were returned to the mint. They were sold from $1.00 to $2.00 for individual pieces. The Oregon Trail Half Dollar was the first commemorative coin minted at Denver.
In 1932 Laura Gardin Fraser's design for the Washington Quarter were going to be used but the US Mint director Robert Grant chose John Flanagan's design instead. In 1999 her design was used for the Washington death bicentennial and this year (2022) the obverse will be used for the quarter! The obverse of of her 1932 design depicts a portrait of George Washington and the reverse depicts a heraldic eagle.