Skip to content


The E-Sylum (8/1/2010)

Book Content

Dick Johnson forwarded this announcement about a great documentary video that is now available for viewing on the 'net. -Editor

Elizabeth Jones Medallic Art Company has placed "The Medal Maker" on its web site in four parts. The 1997 video features master medallist Laura Gardin Fraser and was filmed by Hollywood film producer Michael Craven. It was narrated by Elizabeth Jones, former U.S. Mint Chief Engraver.

The script for the 30-minute video was written by Dick Johnson, a frequent contributor to The E-Sylum. It is a recasting of a 1929 black-and-white film which shows Laura Fraser creating a model for a medal of the National Sculpture Society, their Special Medal of Honor. It takes the viewer through every step from preparing a background plate to the critical review of the finished medal by five of her sculptural peers. This occurred on the occasion of the first presentation of the medal to Daniel Chester French in 1930 -- one of the five artists was her own husband, James Earle Fraser, both accomplished coin and medal sculptors.

Medal Maker sculptor's dinner

The portion displaying Elizabeth Jones' narration is in color, of course, but segments flash back in black-and-white to an occasion in April 1937 when Medallic Art Company first showed the film to members of the National Sculpture Society. The company sent out invitations with the hope that two dozen would accept, but 75 sculptor-members showed up. After the film was shown a sit-down dinner was given and a photograph was taken in the tiny shop where equipment was shoved aside to make room for all the guests and dinner tables.

But the event didn't end peaceably that night. A woman was murdered several blocks away in New York that very day and a witness said the murderer was dressed as a sculptor. Although none of the guests were dressed in their work smocks, New York City police had to interview every guest in attendance!

The 1929 film was once thought lost, company officials had forgotten they had sent a copy of the film to the numismatic department of the Smithsonian Institution. Film maker Mike Craven found it in a closet of Elvira Clain-Stefanelli, head of the department at the time.

Craven persuaded Johnson to write the script and Elizabeth Jones to narrate. The filming took place in Jones' studio, in Philadelphia at the time. The recasting of the film eliminated title cards of the original 16-minute silent film, which were unnecessary with Jones narration.

The video has proved useful since its 1997 release, particularly to sculptor medallists who like viewing the technique Laura Fraser employed for her modeling at the time.

The video may be viewed at the following web site:

Michael Craven's life ended in tragedy. He was killed in a road-rage incident, reported here on E-Sylum at:

NNP is 100% non-profit and independent // Your feedback is essential and welcome. // Your feedback is essential and welcome.