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James E. Fraser 1876 - 1953


Born on November 4, 1876, in Winona, Minnesota, the son of Thomas A. and Cora West Fraser. His father was a railroad engineer and contractor, and when James was less than a year old the family moved to the Dakota territory, where a railroad was pushing westward. During his childhood on the prairie outside Mitchell, South Dakota, when his family lived for a time in an old railroad boxcar, Fraser saw the Indians and frontiersmen whose figures would later appear in his sculpture.


At the age of fifteen, James Earle Fraser began his studies at the Art Institute of Chicago. At about the same time, he entered the studio of Richard Bock in Chicago as a working student. About two years later Fraser completed the first version of his most famous statue, the "End of the Trail." In 1896 Fraser went to Paris and enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux Arts. His prize-winning exhibit in the American Art Association Exhibition in Paris in 1898 brought him to the attention of the noted American sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, with whom he worked for two years, returning to the United States with Saint-Gaudens. Fraser continued to work under Saint-Gaudens for two more years before setting up his own studio in MacDougal Alley, Greenwich Village, New York.


A bas-relief portrait of a young child, Horatio Hathaway Brewster, which Fraser completed in about 1902, won favorable notice, and for several years Fraser enjoyed a substantial number of commissions, many of which were children's portraits. He also made several medals during this early period, including the Edison medal in 1906. Fraser did a number of portraits of adults including J. Eastman Chase, E.W. Deming, Warren Delano, E.H. Harriman, Louis Ledoux, Charles Dana Gibson, Morris K. Jessup, Pat Ford, Mr. and Mrs. John Jacob Albright, Dr. William Polk and M.H. Schoelkopf. He also completed several small titled pieces, including "Grief," "Dancer," "Young Artist," and "Priscilla." His most important early commission was for a marble bust of Theodore Roosevelt for the Senate Chamber, begun in 1906. From this followed other work for public figures, including a bust of Elihu Root and the William Howard Taft Memorial. Fraser designed the John Hay Memorial; a cemetery piece called "Journey Through Life;" "Cheyenne Warrior" and a seated Thomas Jefferson, both for the Saint Louis World's Fair in 1904; and the Bishop Potter sarcophagus in Saint John the Divine Cathedral in New York City. In 1913 Fraser won the competition for a new United States five-cent piece; his design was the now-famous Buffalo nickel.

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