James Earle Fraser and A Controversial Statue

Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall entrance

Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. (Wikipedia)

Last week, the American Museum of Natural History requested that New York City remove the Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt at its front door. James Earle Fraser designed the statue.

Since Roosevelt’s death, Fraser was asked to design three different statues honoring the 26th President with themes picked by the sponsors. The theme was chosen for this statue by the Roosevelt Memorial Association. The statue would honor Roosevelt and the indigenous people in the Badlands of South Dakota and the Africans he met during his post-presidency safari. They were meant to be allegorical figures, not real people.

Theodore Roosevelt was a fascinating personality. TR was fond of the Badlands area, the area of the Dakota territory around the Little Missouri River. In his autobiography, Roosevelt admitted that he used his trips to the Badlands as an escape. The trips started after the death of his first wife, Alice, who died within days of giving birth to their only child.

Roosevelt stopped talking about Alice after her death. Until he wrote his autobiography, the last statement Roosevelt made about Alice was in his diary, where he wrote, “The light has gone out of my life.” Some scholars believe that Roosevelt’s trips to the Badlands were his attempt to combat depression or post-traumatic stress following Alice’s death.

Following his presidency, Roosevelt went on a safari in Africa and a trip through Europe. In Africa, Roosevelt’s safari was a research project sponsored by Andrew Carnegie that would bring back specimens for the Smithsonian Institue and the American Museum of Natural History.

His guide through Africa was a British national RJ Cunninghame. Aside from his knowledge of the region, Cunninghame knew many natives who can lead them around the land. In each of the countries, the local guides were natives.

In his autobiography, Roosevelt would credit the native people for helping on his trips. It was clear that Theodore Roosevelt would not have been associated with these people in other areas of his life. Still, his writing demonstrated a lot of respect for their guidance.

James Earle Fraser

James Earle Fraser, ca. 1920 (Wikipedia)

Fraser was consulted many times by the Roosevelt Memorial Association. It was due to his being an accomplice to Roosevelt’s “pet crime,” the redesign of the nation’s coinage. Fraser, who was an assistant to Augustus Saint-Gaudens, understood the imagery the President wanted that became the inspiration for the Buffalo Nickel.

Frasier’s style was called Beaux-Arts, which relied on neoclassical-like images. Frasier was the designer of the Buffalo Nickel and other commemorative coins. Frasier’s style was called Beaux-Arts, which relied on neoclassical-like images. Frasier took Beaux-Arts to a new level by studying his subjects’ history and incorporating them into the imagery.

All of Frasier’s work has many elements that have to be studied to be appreciated. Numismatists can see his attention to detail by studying a Type 1 Buffalo Nickel with a loupe. The detail gives the coin a lot of character that makes it an appealing collectible. When the U.S. Mint tried to recreate the design for the 2001 commemorative coin, collectors were not satisfied with the flatter image.

The 24-karat Gold Buffalo coin is a good representation of Frasier’s Type 1 Buffalo Nickel design. John Mercanti’s execution of Fraser’s design is phenomenal.

Many of the statues in tribute to the 26th President show Roosevelt on a horse. Fraser was consulted about two other Roosevelt memorial statues. The statue Fraser proposed that is now on Roosevelt Island in New York’s East River was similar in design to the Equestrian Statue at the Museum of Natural History. The other was a statue to be part of the Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River near Georgetown. It depicted Roosevelt on a horse without the guides. Fraser died before funding for the statue was realized.

Fraser’s image for the statue was clear. It was the two indigenous people working to support Roosevelt’s adventures. These are not racist images, even when it has been badly misinterpreted by some media who call the person to Roosevelt’s left an African-American.

Unfortunately, the current society has lost the ability to reason beyond the surface at allegorical symbols that are supposed to honor rather than demean. It takes a higher sense of forethought to understand what is being depicted. A value that is lacking today. Understanding the history of the man and the imagery offered by Fraser something to be admired. It is a work of art that needs to be preserved and not run over by a politically correct freight train.

Weekly World Numismatic News for May 31, 2020

Watching the news has been an experience. As a news junkie, I have found myself turning away from all news outlets to maintain a little sanity.

In television news terms, the “A Block” is the news at the beginning of the broadcast until the first commercial. It is where the most important stories are broadcast. Typically, a major derailment of a freight train in Northern Virginia would be an A Block story. On Friday, the 30-second mention was the lead-in to the weather report at 18 minutes after the hour.

The news of the week affects everything, including numismatics. Although the events in Minneapolis, Louisville, and Brunswick, Georgia, have their analogies to problems in the numismatic community, that will be left to another commentary. This week, I want to concentrate on the coronavirus:

  • The pandemic is real and will be around for a while. It is not a government conspiracy. It is not overblown. And stop comparing the numbers of deaths to the flu. The flu kills 56,000 people annually, a 12-month statistic. COVID-19 has killed 104,217 (as of this writing) since FEBRUARY!
  • COVID-19 does not care who you are, your political affiliation, or what you worship. You can be infected. Once infected, you can spread the virus even if you show no symptoms of the disease. History shows us this is possible. Look up the biography of Mary Mallon, better known as “Typhoid Mary.”
  • The more scientists research the disease, the more they realize a lot is unknown. Last week, a preliminary report from a peer-reviewed medical journal revealed that people infected with COVID-19 are showing damage in their lungs. The study included people who did not show symptoms of the disease.
  • Wearing a mask is not infringing on your rights and not a sign of tyranny. It is to protect everyone in the name of public health in the same manner that you are required to wear shirts and shoes when going to a restaurant. Your decision to not wear a mask infringes on my rights not to get infected since the masks are to prevent you from spreading potentially infected droplets from your lungs. If you want to make a statement, get a personalized mask with your message. Wear a t-shirt with your message. But wear the damned mask!
  • And stay six-feet away from me. I would rather be six-feet away from you than six-feet underground!

Although Florida is open and the governor is lifting many restrictions, the Florida United Numismatists canceled the Summer FUN show.

Even though the ANA announced that they continue to plan to hold the World’s Fair of Money in August, sources report that Pittsburgh may not be fully open by then. Even if Pittsburgh is allowed to be in the “Green Phase,” according to the Pennsylvania governor’s plan, “Large Gatherings of More Than 250 Prohibited.”

Also, “All businesses must follow CDC and DOH guidance for social distancing and cleaning” includes dealers at their tables. Some dealers need a lesson in cleanliness and upgrading their people skills making this a barrier to holding the World’s Fair of Money.

Even if the ANA tries to hold the World’s Fair of Money, how many will attend? Are you going to travel in a closed metal tube to a show required to limit attendance? How many ANA members over 60 will attend? How many ANA members are over 60? I am 60 and 4½ hours away by car with friends in Pittsburgh that I would love to visit. I am considering not going under today’s circumstances.

Let’s do the right thing and cancel the World’s Fair of Money before going further embarrasses the organization.

Finally:

WEAR YOUR MASK!
KEEP YOUR SOCIALLY SAFE DISTANCE!
BE SAFE AND HEALTHY!

And now the news…

 May 25, 2020
MLB Legend Walter "Big Train" Johnson recreated a famous myth associated with George Washington  → Read more at medium.com

 May 26, 2020
Australians have been hoarding banknotes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Australians weren't just stockpiling toilet paper during the COVID-19 crisis – they have also been hoarding crisp new banknotes.  → Read more at bellingencourier.com.au

 May 30, 2020
AN NHS worker was left stunned after he discovered a 670-year-old coin which was made shortly after the Black Death in a farmer’s muddy field. Amateur metal detectorist David Lowe, 55, stumbled across the ‘weirdly relevant’ find among a pile of rubbish while searching land near Rothbury, Northumberland.  → Read more at metro.news
Coin Collectors News
news.coinsblog.ws
 PCGS & Basketball HOF coins (May 31, 2020)
 2020 SUMMER FUN SHOW CANCELLED (May 26, 2020)

 

Weekly World Numismatic News for May 24, 2020

2020 South Africa Platinum ElephantWhen talking about markets, the central theme is that investors hate instability. Whether the conversation is with the professional market maker or the individual investor, there is much uncertainty in the current marketplace.

When equity markets become unstable, investors run to cash or cash equivalents. Cash equivalents include investments like bonds, especially those issued by stable governments. The other investment they run to is precious metals.

Gold is the primary safe-haven for investors. As a society, we have given this mineral an intrinsic value and trade it for a premium. With the panic of the U.S. Mint closing the West Point Mint for a short time, investors started buying platinum. The most popular form to purchase these metals is in coins where we saw the South African Platinum Elephant coins sell out its 2,000 coin production.

With the markets scrambling, it has opened up the door to scammers trying to cash in on the panic buying. Scammers use tactics like selling overpriced and overhyped coins, counterfeits, and not delivering coins after purchasing.

These scams are not new. Last year, the Accredited Precious Metals Dealer (APMD) program warned against scammers as the prices jumped. Unfortunately, the problem has only become worse.

Please do not fall for these scams. If you have any questions, contact a reputable dealer from the APMD, Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG), Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA), or the American Numismatic Association dealer directories. You will be glad you did!

And now the news…

 May 18, 2020
Nervous investors have been pouring into the gold and silver markets over the past two months. Money Metals Exchange is proud to have helped almost 20,000 new customers with a precious metals purchase in recent weeks, many of whom came over from other dealers struggling with inventory shortages and ridiculous delivery delays.  → Read more at fxstreet.com

 May 19, 2020
While the covid-19 pandemic has had a negative effect on the platinum market — including price, demand and supply — results for Q1 2020 show the net effect is less than feared, and the outlook for 2020 is better than expected, according the latest quarterly report by the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC).  → Read more at mining.com

 May 21, 2020
Investors seeking a haven from the economic turmoil created by the coronavirus pandemic are snapping up platinum coins engraved with African wildlife.  → Read more at ca.finance.yahoo.com

 May 22, 2020
Kakinada: Cyclonic storm Amphan may have caused heavy damage in parts of Odisha and West Bengal, but the rains it brought in its wake helped unearth a treasure trove of silver coins of British India era in a village in north coastal Andhra.  → Read more at timesofindia.indiatimes.com
Coin Collectors News
news.coinsblog.ws

 

With the ANA, History Ain’t Changed

Steve Ellsworth

ANA President Steve Ellsworth (Image courtesy of the ANA.)

After I wrote yesterday’s post criticizing the ANA President and Board of Governors for inaction during the pandemic, I received an email asking for a comment about the President’s column in June’s The Numismatist.

Admittedly, I had not downloaded the June issue as I am still reading stories from May. After downloading the issue, I turned to page 9 to read the message. To my surprise, I found this passage:

First, ANA Governor Rob Oberth promises to transform our IT and social-outreach programs in a significant way. Our previous progress has been too slow for far too many years. This is not the time for armchair quarterbacks. The days of those who think their role is to sit on the sidelines and give opinions and “sharp shoot” others is over. Rob pledges to engage those naysayers to lead, follow or get out of the way. He is uniquely qualified to gather the necessary support to push the programs through and expedite their success.

OPEN MESSAGE TO ROB OBERTH: Been there. Done that. Got the award to prove it.

I was once an armchair quarterback. Then I was invited to be part of the solution. After six years, I learned more about the ANA’s intricacies than someone with one-year on the Board of Governors could fathom. I know the history, which is very important because it looks like we are going backward. Remember, George Santayana once opined that if you do not learn from history, then you are destined to repeat it.

It is no secret that I am not a fan of Steve Ellsworth. Aside from his previous actions with me, other things bother me about Steve.

  1. If you go back to Steve’s first run for the Board of Governors about eight years ago, his candidate statements mention his interest in certain aspects of history and the “War of Northern Aggression.” Sorry folks. I have a difficult time embracing this type of attitude about the side the LOST a war only to glorify in later years. And the last I looked, it was the Confederacy that started the shooting at Fort Sumter. Time to get over it and move on.
  2. In Steve’s current tome, he says, “Not since our Civil War 160 years ago have we dealt with such adversity.” A statement like this is from someone who is stuck in a historical time warp. All we have to do is look at the effects on numismatics to debunk that view of history. The desire to create the Peace Dollar, the ending of gold coinage in 1933, the necessity to produce steel cents, and remove copper from nickels are just a few examples of adapting to more difficult times.

I am not trying to minimize the worldwide effect of this pandemic. My business is closed as being “nonessential,” according to the government. My livelihood is on the line. As someone very close to being of Medicare age, this is not the time to start over. However, the U.S. Mint continues to strike coins. It was considered a market catastrophe when the West Point Mint closed for a short period.

Compassion and understanding is one thing. Leadership and being levelheaded is another. Skipping over World War I, Great Depression, World War II, and 9/11 dismisses other lessons from history. Remember the warning from George Santayana.

Although Steve has not said it in so many words, his actions prove that I will not be on his Christmas card list.

But that is not what bothers me. What bothers me is that after six years of helping with the ANA’s technology, bringing it up from the virtual stone age, and working to prevent the ANA from making a multi-million dollar mistake, Steve will not ask me to help on behalf of the ANA.

I came out against him in the election. Big deal! This type of thing happens all of the time, and Steve should know better. He once lived in the shadows of Washington, DC. Opponents work with each other after the elections are over.

I did not respond in his timeframe for input to his strategic plan. Well, Steve forgot that exercise, too. I have not seen anything about this “strategic plan,” nor has anyone else I asked.

If Steve is such a student of history with a fixation on the Civil War, he would recognize how President Abraham Lincoln included those who were opposed to his presidency in his cabinet. It was a move that was uncommon in the 19th century as it is today. I recommend reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin if you want to learn more about a real profile in courage. I can lend my copy!

As a numismatic historical reference, Lincoln appointed primary rival Salmon P. Chase as the Secretary of the Treasury. Chase was considered more radical than Lincoln. The former Whigs did not trust the one-time Democrat after he joined the new Republican Party. As Treasury Secretary, Chase created the paper currency system, which led to his portrait appearing on the first $1 Demand Notes. Later, his portrait would appear on the $10,000 gold certificate.

I do not know Ron Oberth. However, I am sure the reason he has not contacted his immediate predecessor is that Steve said something. I know Steve will respond along the lines of, “I did not tell Ron not to talk to you.” I know, Steve. But you are the type that I would have to check for the knife if you pat me on the back. I am willing to bet that Steve said something like, “I don’t think he would have anything to offer.”

I do not expect to be contacted by the Ellsworth, Oberth, or anyone with the Board of Governors. Too bad, because I would have agreed to work with the ANA regardless of these opinions. I would do it for the benefit of the Association.

I expect to hear from Steve’s fans!

His fans are a fiery bunch. Anytime I criticize Steve, my inbox gets scorched with the same type of vitriol that makes the evening news after a presidential rally. However, the difference is that I can work for the benefit of the whole while I can disagree with someone.

Yes, Steve, I am going to be an armchair quarterback because you took me out of the game and cut me from the team. I know what the ANA needs and why it has not made progress. I will use that knowledge to make sure that membership dues benefit the members.

Sun Tzu did not write, “keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” That was from The Godfather Part II. But it was Machiavelli who wrote, “It is easier for the prince to make friends of those men who were contented under the former government, and are therefore his enemies, than of those who, being discontented with it, were favourable to him and encouraged him to seize it.”

Gotta love Santayana’s wisdom!

Double extra brownie points to anyone who can guess from which song the title of this post was adapted from!

WFM Planning Continues but will the ANA?

Earlier today, the American Numismatic Association published a press release announcing that planning is continuing for the World’s Fair of Money this August in Pittsburgh.

Whatever happens, will depend on the state of the pandemic and the restrictions set by Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh. It will also depend on how the David L. Lawrence Convention Center can help stage the show to keep all participants safe.

I have confidence that the ANA staff will do the best job they can so that the show can go on.

The leadership is challenging my confidence in the ANA.

It has been more than two months since the ANA Headquarters had to close because of the pandemic, but we have not heard from the ANA president.

On April 8, 2020, the ANA canceled Summer Seminar, but we have not heard from the ANA president.

On April 10, 2020, I explained that the ANA did not have online education because the ANA president killed the process.

On April 16, 2020, I provided several ideas as to how the ANA could provide stop-gap processes to expand online education in the short term.

But we have not heard from the ANA president.

As the country begins to reopen, the ANA has missed a golden opportunity to put itself online to attract an audience. Using a professional staff who could probably use a break from the mundane, the ANA could have created great content to attract people surfing the web looking for something different.

The ANA has many brilliant members with knowledge they can share with the public under the ANA’s banner. Others can generate content for the more serious collectors.

Since the ANA staff is already on the payroll, the costs would be whatever cost production and communications. All it would take is a commitment from the ANA to do this.

Where was the ANA’s commitment?

Where was the Board of Governors to push this?

Where was ANA President Steve Ellsworth?

The Passing of Annie Glenn

John and Annie Glenn

Feb 17, 2012 — Mercury astronaut John Glenn and his wife, Annie, pose during a luncheon Feb. 17, 2012, celebrating 50 years of Americans in orbit, an era which began with Glenn’s Mercury mission MA-6, on Feb. 20, 1962.
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

A big tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic is the number of historical people who are being fatally stricken by the virus. Today, we learned that Annie Glenn, the surviving wife of astronaut and Senator John Glenn, died of COVID-19 complications. She lived for 100 years.

Annie Glenn was an advocate for those with speech disorders and child abuse. She grew up with a severe stutter that she hid from the public. After undergoing an intensive program at Hollins College, she learned to control her stutter. It gave her the confidence to be an advocate for those who could not speak.

After many years of advocacy, The Annie Glenn Award was created to honor individuals who overcome communications disorders.

Although there have been many deaths during this pandemic, a few have touched the numismatic community. Aside from being the spouse of a famous American, I own a numismatic collectible with her autograph. The $1 silver certificate may not be worth much as a numismatic collectible, but with the passing of John and Annie Glenn, it becomes more precious.

Glenn family autographed “Short Snorter” dated February 24, 1962, four days after Glenn orbited the earth in Friendship 7

Rest in Peace, Annie Glenn.

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