Franklin D. Roosevelt has a sweeping legacy that still impacts lives today. Whether it’s Social Security benefits or the Hoover Dam, the effects of Roosevelt’s accomplishments can be felt all over the U.S. Perhaps the best tribute to FDR is the Roosevelt dime. But what many don’t know is that the Roosevelt dime wasn’t created in honor of the president himself, but given to honor the work he did helping fight polio.
It’s well known that FDR was paralyzed from the waist down with polio. So it makes sense that polio, and particularly infantile paralysis, would be an issue he was passionate about. In 1938, FDR founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Each year the foundation held a fundraiser to fight polio known as the “March of Dimes,” which always began on FDR’s birthday, January 30. And it was the March of Dimes that helped earn Roosevelt a spot on U.S. currency.
FDR passed away in 1945. At that time, the Mercury dime was still in circulation, but on its way out. The Mercury dime had served the mandatory 25 years, and was somewhat unpopular with the public. It was also the last U.S. coin not to feature a past president. The U.S. Mint decided that Franklin D. Roosevelt, with his signature March of Dimes fundraiser, was the perfect fit.
The plan was to release the Roosevelt dime to the public on what would have been Roosevelt’s 64th birthday, January 30th,1946. U.S. Mint Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock had already made a presidential medal honoring Roosevelt, so he was the natural choice to sculpt the coin. The same year of FDR’s passing, Sinnock submitted a design to Mint Director Nellie Tayloe Ross, who rejected it. It wasn’t until January 6, 1946, that the second design was accepted, and promptly minted. The Roosevelt dime was released on the planned date, which was Roosevelt’s birthday.
The Roosevelt dime has now been in circulation for almost 60 years, with new dimes minted each year. Up until 1965, Roosevelt dimes were made of 90% silver. Though the dimes are no longer made of silver, the coin serves as a lasting tribute not only to Roosevelt himself, but also to the adversity he faced, and the compassion he showed for others.
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