Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or FDR as he is often known, was the 32nd President of the United States, serving an unprecedented four terms from 1933 until his death in 1945. Known for his leadership during the Great Depression and World War II, he left a significant impact on American history. But it’s not just these monumental events that have kept his legacy alive.
There’s a smaller, yet equally significant, tribute to him that we encounter almost every day – the dime.
Why is Franklin D. Roosevelt on the Dime?
Roosevelt’s face has been on the U.S. dime since 1946, a detail that we may not pay much attention to as we hand over change at the grocery store or insert coins into a parking meter. However, the selection of FDR for this particular coin was not a random choice. It’s a story that blends personal struggle, public service, and the fight against a crippling disease.
Our journey in this blog post aims to uncover the reason behind FDR’s selection for the dime. We’ll delve into the life and legacy of FDR, the historical significance of the dime, and the fascinating circumstances that led to his portrait being featured in this ten-cent piece.
By the end, we hope to provide a richer understanding of this seemingly small detail of American currency and its connection to one of the country’s most influential leaders.
So, let’s dive into the intriguing world of the Roosevelt Dime, a small coin with a big story!
1. The Man Behind the Dime: A Look at Franklin D. Roosevelt
In our exploration of the man behind the dime, we delve into the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd President of the United States. He was a formidable figure in American history, spearheading significant political reforms and navigating personal challenges with remarkable resilience.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Stalwart
Roosevelt’s presidency, which spanned from 1933 to his death in 1945, was marked by notable events like the Great Depression and World War II.
Throughout these turbulent times, FDR demonstrated remarkable leadership, implementing policies and programs under the umbrella of the ‘New Deal‘ to help the nation recover economically.
His commitment to the welfare of the American people solidified his legacy as a compassionate and effective leader.
The Personal Challenges: Contracting Polio
A defining moment in Roosevelt’s life came in 1921 when he contracted polio while vacationing in New Brunswick, Canada. This disease left him unable to walk, presenting an immense personal challenge for a man who was just starting to make his mark in the political arena.
Yet, Roosevelt did not let this setback deter him. Instead, he turned this personal adversity into a public cause, establishing the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, later renamed the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP), and using his position as President to garner support for the cause.
Shaping Policies and Public Image
His personal experience with polio profoundly influenced FDR’s policies and public image. Recognizing the necessity of medical research and care, he became a staunch advocate for health-related causes, most notably through his support for the March of Dimes.
His public appeal for help led to an astounding response from the American people, who sent more than 2.68 million dimes to the White House. This overwhelming public support led to the rebranding of NFIP to the now-famous March of Dimes.
The Significance of Memorializing FDR
It’s not just Roosevelt’s political achievements that make him a significant figure worth memorializing, but also his resilience and determination in the face of adversity. His battle with polio and his subsequent efforts to raise funds for its cure are testaments to his indomitable spirit.
He used a personal tragedy to drive public action, a move that not only demonstrated his ability to connect with the masses but also cemented his place in the hearts of the American people.
As we continue to unravel the mystery of FDR’s presence on the dime, it’s important to remember that the man behind the coin was not just a remarkable political leader, but also a figure of resilience and resolve whose personal experiences shaped his policies and public image.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s story provides an insightful backdrop to our understanding of why this beloved president was chosen as the face of the dime.
2. The Historical Significance of the Dime
Before we delve into the intriguing story of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s image on the dime, it is essential that we understand the historical value and significance of the dime itself as a unit of currency in the United States. The dime, small and seemingly inconspicuous, has played a pivotal role in the American monetary system since its inception.
The first dimes were minted in 1796, making them one of the oldest coins still in circulation today. These original dimes were small silver coins, a testament to their intrinsic value at the time.
A Host to Numerous Figures
But the dime’s importance extends beyond its tangible value. It’s the narratives woven into its history, the figures it has represented, that grant it significant weight. Over the course of its existence, the dime has played host to a number of notable figures.
Prior to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the dime featured the likes of Lady Liberty and President William H. Taft’s Secretary of Agriculture, James Wilson, among others. Each figure imprinted on this coin was chosen with deliberate care and consideration, underlining the immense honor attributed to being featured on the dime.
By featuring influential individuals who have left indelible marks on the nation’s history, the dime does more than facilitate economic transactions. It also serves as a pocket-sized canvas for storytelling. A dime may seem small in size, but its symbolic and historical significance is vast.
The narratives it carries provide a snapshot of the times during which it was minted, reflecting the values, heroes, and milestones of those periods.
The selection of Franklin D. Roosevelt to grace the face of the dime, then, is not just an arbitrary choice. Mere months after his passing, he joined the ranks of influential figures forever memorialized on this ten-cent coin.
The reason behind this selection, which we will explore in subsequent sections, is deeply entwined with Roosevelt’s personal experiences, political accomplishments, and enduring legacy.
3. FDR’s Connection with the March of Dimes
In our quest to understand the selection of Franklin D. Roosevelt as the face of the dime, we stumble upon a profound and personal connection between FDR and the March of Dimes.
This link not only provides valuable insight into his life but also brings forth an influential factor that led to his commemoration of the dime.
The March of Dimes and its Mission
Born out of Roosevelt’s personal battle with polio, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, popularly known as the March of Dimes, was created in 1938. It initially aimed to fight the devastating disease of polio, which had afflicted the former president himself.
The organization made significant strides towards this goal, pioneering vaccine research that eventually led to the eradication of polio in the United States.
Over the years, the March of Dimes expanded its mission beyond polio. It now focuses on preventing birth defects and preterm births, using a multifaceted approach that encompasses surveillance, research, advocacy, awareness, and education related to birth defects prevention and care.
Roosevelt’s Support for the March of Dimes
Roosevelt’s support for the March of Dimes was not merely ceremonial.
- As a sufferer of polio, he understood the harsh realities of the disease and used his influence to drive the organization’s efforts.
- His personal involvement increased public awareness of polio and helped garner widespread support for the foundation’s cause.
- His dedication was such that the organization became synonymous with his name, creating an enduring legacy that transcended beyond his presidency.
From March of Dimes to Dimes in Millions
The connection between Roosevelt and the March of Dimes played a pivotal role in his selection for the dime. His active engagement with the foundation and the battles he fought both personally against polio and collectively against birth defects resonated with the public.
It painted a picture of a leader willing to transform personal adversity into a public good, making him a figure worthy of being immortalized on a coin.
The decision to feature Roosevelt on the dime can be seen as a tribute not just to his presidency, but also to his relentless spirit, embodied through the March of Dimes. It served as a reminder of his perseverance, his commitment to public service, and his unwavering courage in the face of personal hardship.
4. Making History: The Selection Process
When it comes to selecting the face of a coin, the process isn’t simple. It requires careful thought, intricate design, and ultimately, a seal of approval from the United States Mint. This was precisely the case when Franklin D. Roosevelt’s portrait was chosen for the dime in 1946.
Process of Selection and Design
The process started with the U.S. Mint Chief Engraver, John Sinnock, who was tasked with designing the coin. Interestingly, many scholars argue that Sinnock’s design was significantly inspired by the work of Selma Burke, a renowned sculptor. Sinnock’s initial design submitted in October 1945 faced rejection.
Faced with a looming deadline, the Mint even considered holding a contest for the dime’s design. But this idea was swiftly dismissed.
Sinnock returned to his drafting table, undeterred. On January 6, 1946, just 24 days before the coin’s scheduled unveiling, Sinnock’s final design won approval. He scrapped the existing design featuring Lady Liberty stylized as the goddess Mercury.
Instead, he opted for a large portrait of Roosevelt on one side, with ‘LIBERTY‘ to the left and ‘IN GOD WE TRUST‘ below. On the other side, he chose an upright torch, symbolizing freedom, flanked by olive and oak branches, representing peace and victory, respectively.
The Latin phrase ‘E PLURIBUS UNUM‘ was placed behind these figures.
Public and Political Reactions
The selection of FDR’s portrait for the dime sparked a variety of reactions from the public and political spheres in 1946.
While some viewed it as a fitting tribute to a beloved president, others saw it as controversial. The connection between Roosevelt and the dime, however, was more profound than most realized.
Indeed, the dime was chosen specifically to honor Roosevelt’s efforts in supporting the March of Dimes program, which raised funds for research to find a cure for polio, a disease with which FDR himself had been afflicted at the age of 39.
Despite the initial controversy, today, the Roosevelt dime stands as a testament to a great president and an even greater cause—ending one of the most prevalent diseases of the last century.
A Lasting Tribute
The story behind Roosevelt’s face on the dime is a fascinating tale of perseverance, tribute, and history. It’s more than just the depiction of a former president. It’s a symbol of FDR’s enduring legacy, his leadership during challenging times, and his relentless fight against polio.
The selection process, though fraught with obstacles, resulted in a coin design that continues to remind us of Roosevelt’s impact on American history.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Franklin D. Roosevelt on the dime?
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States, is depicted on the dime in recognition of his significant contributions to the nation during his presidency, particularly his leadership during the Great Depression and World War II.
Why was Franklin D. Roosevelt first featured on the dime?
Franklin D. Roosevelt made his debut appearance on the Dime in 1946, just one year after his death in 1945. His portrayal replaced the previous design which featured the Winged Liberty Head, commonly referred to as the Mercury dime.
How long has Franklin D. Roosevelt been on the dime?
Franklin D. Roosevelt has been displayed on the dime for over 75 years. His image has remained on the coin since its introduction in 1946, making it one of the longest-running designs in U.S. coinage history.
Are there any other coins that feature U’S’ presidents?
Yes, several other U.S. presidents have been featured on coins. For example, George Washington is depicted on the quarter, Thomas Jefferson on the nickel, Abraham Lincoln on the penny, and John F. Kennedy on the half-dollar. However, Franklin D. Roosevelt is the only president to be prominently featured on the dime.
The narrative of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s likeness gracing the American dime is a fascinating tale that intertwines personal struggle, public service, and historical significance. We began our exploration by acknowledging the enigma surrounding FDR’s selection for the dime.
As we delved deeper into his life, the connection between the man and the dime gradually unraveled, revealing a story as compelling as it was enlightening.
FDR’s enduring legacy, marked by his four-term presidency, was built on far-ranging achievements both within and beyond the White House. His leadership during the tumultuous times of the Great Depression and World War II, along with his monumental contributions such as constructing Social Security, establishing important banking acts, and forming the New Deal, all played a part in making him a significant figure in American history.
But perhaps the most poignant aspect of FDR’s story is his personal battle with polio. His support for the March of Dimes, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for polio, created a deep-rooted connection between him and the dime.
So it was a meaningful tribute to a man who had profoundly impacted the nation, a recognition of his struggles and triumphs, and a testament to his enduring legacy.
As we reflect on the journey we’ve taken to unveil this mystery, it becomes clear that each coin we casually hand over at the checkout counter or drop into a vending machine carries with it a piece of our nation’s history.
Have a close look at the FDR Dimes circulated in the past few years in this video below: