What a great piece of numismatic Americana - a clay model for James Earle Fraser's Indian Head nickel. The model will be displayed at the Woodbridge Town Hall in Woodbridge, NJ through the month of December. If any of our E-Sylum readers get a chance to view the exhibit, please tell us your thoughts.Woodbridge Mayor John E. McCormac and members of the Woodbridge Township Municipal Council will join the Historical Association of Woodbridge Township and the Woodbridge Township Historic Preservation Commission in opening an exhibit on the clay industry of Woodbridge at Woodbridge Town Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m.
It's not clear from this article whether the model (or "mold" as the article calls it) is only for the Indian Head obverse, or also the Buffalo reverse. Has anyone seen it? Was it known previously in numismatic circles? Does anyone know the owner, Gordon Henderson? -Editor
The exhibit features the original clay mold used by the United States Mint to mint the first 1913-issue "Indian Head" or "Buffalo" nickel minted from 1913-1938. Also on exhibit are artifacts of the storied Woodbridge clay industry that flourished for nearly a century.
The original Buffalo Nickel mold was created from clay mined and manufactured in Woodbridge. The clay mold design was created by famed American sculptor James Earle Fraser (1876 - 1953), whose classic sculptures of national heroes from Jefferson to Patton adorn public spaces across the country. The mint mold is owned by Gordon Henderson of Rutherford, NJ, an accomplished stained-glass craftsman, and was recently on exhibit at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick.
The exhibit at Woodbridge Town Hall will continue through the month of December and may be viewed by the public during regular Town Hall business hours.
To read the complete article, see: Woodbridge to Display Original Clay Mold used to Mint Indian Head Nickel (http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20081126/
I asked Dick Johnson about the piece. He writes:
I would be skeptical of a clay model because it is so impermanent. Fraser did indeed work in clay but he would have made a plaster cast of his clay model. The plaster is what he brought to Henri Weil in lower Manhattan who made galvanos from the plasters. Weil even silver plated some of these galvanos to give Fraser an idea of what the coin would look like in a silver color (as copper nickel). These galvanos were considered "trials" by numismatist Walter Breen who coined the term "electrotrial."
There are a number of these metal patterns in private hands (via a Joseph Lepczyk auction) that anyone with even a modicum of casting knowledge or working with clay could have made a clay model from one of these metal galvanos. The exhibitors would have to prove the provenance of that clay model back to Fraser to be meaningful.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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