December 11, 2008

Original buffalo nickel mold

Display of original Indian Head nickel mold highlights former Woodbridge clay industryAn original mold for the 1913 Indian Head nickel, formed from locally mined clay, is on display in Town Hall this month.

The mold was created by sculptor James Earle Fraser, who was hired by the U.S. Treasury in 1911 to design a new nickel which became known as the Indian Head or Buffalo nickel.
Comment:  Clearly someone revised the initial design at some point. Good thing, too. Unlike the final design, I don't think this cartoonish Indian would've become a national icon.


dmarks said...

He reminds me too much of Jean Luc Picard.

James Earle Frasier might be worth his own entry in your pages. His most famous work is the "End of the Trail" sculpture. This statue and his coin work might make him without peer as the single (non-Native) artist whose images of Natives have impacted popular culture.

Particularly appropriate to the Newspaper Rock discussions of the "Vanishing Indian" meme is the following paragraph:

"In 1894, when James Earle Fraser completed his model of the End of the Trail, American civilization stretched from shore to shore. Most Euro-Americans believed the frontier period was over and that such progress was inevitable. Many viewed Native Americans as part of the past, a vanishing race with no place in the twentieth century. Popular literature portrayed Indian people as "savages," noble or otherwise. Fraser's The End of the Trail reflects this legacy: a nineteenth century Indian warrior defeated and bound for oblivion -- frozen in time."

I know you have discussed the statue previously, such as this post comparing the sculpture to an Apocalypto poster.

Rob said...

Good point about Fraser. I can't think of any images better known than "End of the Trail" and the buffalo nickel. Only the famous photos of Sitting Bull and Geronimo are in the same class. (Perhaps the semi-forgotten Indian Head penny, too.)

I'm referring to olden times, of course--before WW II and the Nuclear/Space/Information Age. In the present era, images such as Tonto, the Land O' Lakes maiden, Iron Eyes Cody (the crying Indian), Disney's Pocahontas, and Chief Wahoo may be as well known.

You could say Frederick Remington's and Charles Russell's paintings and Edward Curtis's photographs had a comparable effect on the popular culture. But those were whole bodies of work, not single images. Fraser may get the nod for the greatest impact per image.