Franklin Roosevelt founds March of Dimes

Franklin Roosevelt founds March of Dimes

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an adult victim of polio, founds the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which he later renamed the March of Dimes Foundation, on January 3, 1938. A predominantly childhood disease in the early 20th century, polio wreaked havoc among American children every summer. The virus, which affects the central nervous system, flourished in contaminated food and water and was easily transmitted. Those who survived the disease usually suffered from debilitating paralysis into their adult lives. In 1921, at the relatively advanced age of 39, Roosevelt contracted polio and lost the use of his legs. With the help of the media, his Secret Service and careful event planning, Roosevelt managed to keep his disease out of the public eye, yet his personal experience inspired in him an empathy with the handicapped and prompted him to the found the March of Dimes.

In 1926, Roosevelt started the non-profit Georgia Warm Springs Foundation on the site of the springs he visited to partake of the waters’ therapeutic effects. Twelve years later, he reinvented the charity as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP). The NFIP was a non-partisan association of health scientists and volunteers that helped fund research for a polio vaccine and assisted victims on the long path through physical rehabilitation. Funded originally through the generosity of wealthy celebrities at yearly President’s Birthday Balls, the foundation could not raise money fast enough to keep pace with polio’s continued toll on America’s children and, during the Depression, the polio epidemic worsened. In 1938, Roosevelt decided to appeal to the general public for help. At one fundraiser, celebrity singer Eddie Cantor jokingly urged the public to send dimes to the president, coining the term March of Dimes. The public took his appeal seriously, flooding the White House with 2,680,000 dimes and thousands of dollars in donations.

In subsequent years, the March of Dimes continued to lead lucrative fundraising campaigns that set the model for other health-related foundations. In 1941, the foundation provided funding for the development of an improved iron lung, which helped polio patients to breathe when muscle control of the lungs was lost. The March of Dimes appointed Dr. Jonas Salk to lead research for a polio vaccine in 1949. Roosevelt, who died in 1945, did not live to see Salk develop and test the first successful polio vaccine in 1955.

The Inspiring Depression-Era Story of How the 'March of Dimes' Got Its Name

T oday, it’s easy for Americans to take for granted being able to dive into a public swimming pool or sit in a crowded movie theater without worrying about contracting polio.

But that’s what life was like 80 years ago, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt &mdash who had himself contracted polio in 1921 at age 39 &mdash started the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The organization, which officially launched on Jan. 3, 1938, was behind the popular March of Dimes fundraising campaign. The idea grew out of the “Birthday Balls” that FDR had hosted on his birthday for several years running, to raise money to research a cure for polio, as well for as efforts to care for patients and prevent the spread of the disease.

FDR’s backing of the organization helped raise the public profile for research efforts in a critical way. But coming up with the “March of Dimes” name for its primary fundraising campaign was the work of comedian Eddie Cantor.

He “instantly understood [the name’s] appeal, based as it was on a pun on the contemporary newsreel, The March of Time,” according to the organization. First broadcast on radio in the early 1930s, The March of Time, a product of Time Inc., had become even more of a household name when the 20-minute news recaps ran in movie theaters.

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President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the March of Dimes

In 1921, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was thirty-nine years old, he contracted infantile paralysis, more commonly known as polio. Initially the disease affected nearly his entire body, eventually he was unable to stand or walk without assistance.

In 1927 Roosevelt formed the Warm Springs Georgia Foundation. This organization later became known as the March of Dimes and with the help of many organizations and ordinary citizens, it raised millions of dollars to combat polio. Jonas Salk, with funding from the March of Dimes, developed a vaccine that stemmed the spread of this disease in 1955.

President John F. Kennedy and Programs for Intellectual Disabilities

When John F. Kennedy began his administration, intellectual disabilities were a neglected issue. Few scientists were researching its causes, and even fewer doctors and educators were trained to support people with intellectual disabilities and their families. The Kennedy family had a personal connection to the issue President Kennedy's sister Rosemary, sixteen months his junior, was born with intellectual disabilities.

At the urging of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Kennedy made this issue a priority for his administration.

This Week in Roosevelt History: January 1-7

January 3, 1938: FDR establishes the March of Dimes. The original name for this organization was the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis.

Franklin D. Roosevelt waving a check representing the proceeds from the first Birthday Ball in the White House.
February 1, 1934
FDR Library Photo Collection. NPx. 82-71(20).

FDR and the March of Dimes

In August 1921 Franklin Roosevelt went swimming with his children near their vacation home off the coast of Maine. After a day of strenuous outdoor activities that left him feeling slightly feverish and fatigued, the thirty-nine year old former Assistant Secretary of the Navy chose to go to bed early without having dinner. Within forty-eight hours he would be paralyzed from the chest down. While his physical condition would improve, and while he never let his disability hinder his ambitions, the future President of the United States would be unable to walk or stand without support for the rest of his life.

While Roosevelt’s challenges with polio have been extensively documented, his role in helping achieve victory over the virus is less well known.

Eighty years ago this month Franklin Delano Roosevelt founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, dedicated to combating polio. (While FDR was an adult at the time of his diagnosis, the vast majority of those who contracted the disease did so in infancy.)

FDR and child at his vacation home, 1912. Courtesy of Roosevelt Campobello International Park.

Now known as the March of Dimes, in honor of the fundraiser where people were encouraged to donate as little as ten cents in honor of the president's birthday, this organization’s funding and support were central to the discovery of Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin’s polio vaccines.

A 1942 billboard in California sponsored by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later the March of Dimes. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s commitment to helping polio patients continued throughout his years in the White House. Courtesy FDR Library.

The association between the 32nd president and the dimes mailed to the White House during his presidency greatly contributed to FDR's likeness being placed on the dime in 1946, where it has remained up through today.

Having achieved incredible success in eradicating polio across most of the globe, today the March of Dimes Foundation spearheads efforts to improve the health of infants and mothers, focused most urgently on reducing birth defects, premature birth, and loss of life among newborns and infants.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, after leading the United States through much of the Great Depression and World War II. Roosevelt had suffered from polio since 1921 and had helped found and strongly supported the March of Dimes to fight that crippling disease, so the ten-cent piece was an obvious way of honoring a president popular for his war leadership. [6] [7] On May 3, Louisiana Representative James Hobson Morrison introduced a bill for a Roosevelt dime. [8] On May 17, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. announced that the Mercury dime (also known as the Winged Liberty dime) would be replaced by a new coin depicting Roosevelt, to go into circulation about the end of the year. [9] Approximately 90 percent of the letters received by Stuart Mosher, editor of The Numismatist (the journal of the American Numismatic Association), were supportive of the change, but he himself was not, arguing that the Mercury design was beautiful and that the limited space on the dime would not do justice to Roosevelt he advocated a commemorative silver dollar instead. [10] Others objected that despite his merits, Roosevelt had not earned a place alongside Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, the only presidents honored on the circulating coinage to that point. [11] As the Mercury design, first coined in 1916, had been struck for at least 25 years, it could be changed under the law by the Bureau of the Mint. No congressional action was required, though the committees of each house with jurisdiction over the coinage were informed. [12]

Creating the new design was the responsibility of Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock, who had been in his position since 1925. [13] Much of the work in preparing the new coin was done by Sinnock's assistant, later chief engraver Gilroy Roberts. [14] In early October 1945, Sinnock submitted plaster models to Assistant Director of the Mint F. Leland Howard (then acting as director), who transmitted them to the Commission of Fine Arts. This commission reviews coin designs because it was tasked by a 1921 executive order by President Warren G. Harding with rendering advisory opinions on public artworks. [15]

The models initially submitted by Sinnock showed a bust of Roosevelt on the obverse and, on the reverse, a hand grasping a torch, and also clutching sprigs of olive and oak. Sinnock had prepared several other sketches for the reverse, including one flanking the torch with scrolls inscribed with the Four Freedoms. Other drafts showed representations of the goddess Liberty, and one commemorated the United Nations Conference of 1945, displaying the War Memorial Opera House where it took place. [16] Numismatist David Lange described most of the alternative designs as "weak". [17] The models were sent on October 12 by Howard to Gilmore Clarke, chairman of the commission, who consulted with its members and responded on the 22nd, rejecting them, stating that "the head of the late President Roosevelt, as portrayed by the models, is not good. It needs more dignity." [13] Sinnock had submitted an alternative reverse design similar to the eventual coin, with the hand omitted and the sprigs placed on either side of the torch Clarke preferred this. [18]

Sinnock attended a conference at the home of Lee Lawrie, sculptor member of the commission, with a view to resolving the differences, and thereafter submitted a new model for the obverse, addressing the concerns about Roosevelt's head. The Mint Director, Nellie Tayloe Ross, sent photographs to the commission, which rejected it and proposed a competition among five artists, including Adolph A. Weinman (designer of the Mercury dime and Walking Liberty half dollar) and James Earle Fraser (who had sculpted the Buffalo nickel). Ross declined, as the Mint was under great pressure to have the new coins ready for the March of Dimes campaign in January 1946. The new Treasury Secretary, Fred Vinson, was appealed to, but he also disliked the models and rejected them near the end of December. Sinnock swapped the positions of the date and the word LIBERTY, allowing an enlargement of the head. He made other changes as well according to numismatic author Don Taxay, "Roosevelt had never looked better!" [18]

Lawrie and Vinson approved the models. On January 8, Ross telephoned the commission, informing them of this. With Sinnock ill (he died in 1947) and the March of Dimes campaign under way, Ross did not wait for a full meeting of the commission, but authorized the start of production. This caused some ill-feeling between the Mint and the commission, but she believed that she had fulfilled her obligations under the executive order. [19]

The obverse of the dime depicts President Roosevelt, with the inscriptions LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST. Sinnock's initials, JS, are found by the cutoff of the bust, to the left of the date. The reverse shows a torch in the center, representing liberty, flanked by an olive sprig representing peace, and one of oak symbolizing strength and independence. The inscription E PLURIBUS UNUM (out of many, one) stretches across the field. The name of the country and the value of the coin are the legends that surround the reverse design, [20] which is symbolic of the victorious end of World War II. [7]

Numismatist Mark Benvenuto suggested that the image of Roosevelt on the coin is more natural than other such presidential portraits, resembling that on an art medal. [7] Walter Breen, in his comprehensive volume on U.S. coins, argued that "the new design was . no improvement at all on Weinman's [Mercury dime] except for eliminating the fasces [on its reverse] and making the vegetation more recognizably an olive branch for peace." [21] Art historian Cornelius Vermeule called the Roosevelt dime "a clean, satisfying and modestly stylish, no-nonsense coin that in total view comes forth with notes of grandeur". [22]

Some, at the time of design and since, have seen similarities between the dime and a plaque depicting Roosevelt sculpted by African-American sculptor Selma Burke, unveiled in September 1945, which is in the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington Burke was among those alleging her work was used by Sinnock to create the dime. [21] She advocated for this position until her death in 1994, and persuaded a number of numismatists and politicians, including Roosevelt's son James. Numismatists who support her point to the fact that Sinnock took his depiction of the Liberty Bell, which appears on the 1926 Sesquicentennial half dollar and Franklin half dollar (1948–1963), from another designer without giving credit. However, Robert R. Van Ryzin, in his book on mysteries about U.S. coins, pointed out that Sinnock had sketched Roosevelt from life in 1933 for his first presidential medal (designed by Sinnock), and accounts from the time of issuance of the dime state that Sinnock used those, as well as photographs of the president, to prepare the dime. [23] A 1956 obituary in The New York Times credits Marcel Sternberger with taking the photograph that Sinnock adapted for the dime. [24] According to Van Ryzin, the passage of time has made it impossible to verify or invalidate Burke's assertion. [25]

The Roosevelt dime was first struck on January 19, 1946, at the Philadelphia Mint. [26] It was released into circulation on January 30, which would have been President Roosevelt's 64th birthday. [20] The planned release date had been February 5 it was moved up to coincide with the anniversary. [26] With its debut, Sinnock became the first chief engraver to be credited with the design of a new circulating U.S. coin since those designed by Charles E. Barber were first issued in 1892. [27] The release of the coins was a newsworthy event, and demand for the new design remained strong, although many of Roosevelt's opponents, particularly Republicans, were outraged. [28] There were reports of the new dime being rejected in vending machines, but no changes to the coin were made. [26] The dime's design has not changed much in its over seventy years of production, the most significant alterations being minor changes to Roosevelt's hair and the shifting of the mint mark from reverse to obverse in the 1960s. [27]

At the time the dimes were released, relations with the USSR were deteriorating, and Sinnock's initials, JS, were deemed by some to refer to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, placed there by a communist sympathizer. Once these rumors reached Congress, the Mint sent out press releases debunking this myth. [29] [30] Despite the Mint's denial, there were rumors into the 1950s that there had been a secret deal at the Yalta Conference to honor Stalin on a U.S. coin. [26] The controversy was given fresh life in 1948 with the posthumous release of Sinnock's Franklin half dollar, which bears his initials JRS. [31]

Although usually more coins were struck at Philadelphia than at the other mints during the years the coin was struck in silver, only 12,450,181 were struck there in 1955, fewer than at the Denver Mint or at San Francisco. This was due to a sagging economy and a lackluster demand for coins that caused the Mint to announce in January that the San Francisco Mint would be shuttered at the end of the year. The 1955 dimes from the three facilities are the lowest mintages by date and mint mark among circulating coins in the series, but are not rare, as collectors stored them away in rolls of 50. [32]

With the Coinage Act of 1965, the Mint transitioned to striking clad coins, made from a sandwich of copper nickel around a core of pure copper. There are no mint marks on coins dated from 1965 to 1967, as the Mint made efforts to discourage the hoarding that it blamed for the coin shortages that had preceded the 1965 act. [33] The Mint modified the master hub only slightly when it began clad coinage, but starting in 1981, made minor changes that lowered the coin's relief considerably, leading to a flatter look to Roosevelt's profile. This was done so that coinage dies would last longer. Mint marks resumed in 1968 at Denver and for proof coins at San Francisco. Although the California facility beginning in 1965 occasionally struck dimes for commerce, those bore no mint marks and are indistinguishable from ones minted at Philadelphia. [34] The only dimes to bear the "S" mint mark for San Francisco since 1968 have been proof coins, resuming a series coined from 1946 to 1964 without mint mark at Philadelphia. [35] Starting in 1992, silver dimes with the pre-1965 composition were struck at San Francisco for inclusion in annual proof sets featuring silver coins. [36] Beginning in 2019, these silver dimes are struck in .999 silver, rather than .900, which the Mint no longer uses. [37]

In 1980, the Philadelphia Mint began using a mint mark "P" on dimes. [38] Dimes had been struck intermittently during the 1970s and 1980s at the West Point Mint, in Roosevelt's home state of New York, to meet demand, but none bore a "W" mint mark. This changed in 1996, when dimes were struck there for the 50th anniversary of the Roosevelt design. Just under a million and a half clad 1996-W dimes were minted these were not released to circulation, but were included in the year's mint set for collectors. In 2015, silver dimes were struck at West Point for inclusion in a special set of coins for the March of Dimes, including a dime struck at Philadelphia and a silver dollar depicting Roosevelt and polio vaccine developer Dr. Jonas Salk. [39] Mintages generally remained high, with a billion coins each struck at Philadelphia and at Denver in many of the clad years. [40]

In 2003, Indiana Representative Mark Souder proposed that former president Ronald Reagan, who was then dying of Alzheimer's disease, replace Roosevelt on the dime once he died, stating that Reagan was as iconic to conservatives as Roosevelt was to liberals. Reagan's wife Nancy expressed her opposition, stating that she was certain the former president would not have favored it either. After Ronald Reagan died in 2004, there was support for a design change, but Souder declined to pursue his proposal. [41]

The Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020 (Pub.L. 116–330 (text) (pdf)) was signed by President Donald Trump on January 13, 2021. It provides for, among other things, special one-year designs for the circulating coinage in 2026, including the dime, for the United States Semiquincentennial (250th anniversary), with one of the designs to depict women. [42]

Due to the large numbers struck, few regular-issue Roosevelt dimes command a premium, and the series has received relatively little attention from collectors. Though silver issues remain legal tender and can be removed from circulation and collected via coin roll hunting, clad coins form the majority of the dimes in circulation. Prominent among these are the dimes struck at Philadelphia in 1982, erroneously minted and released without the mint mark "P" these may sell for $50 to $75. As no official mint sets were issued in 1982 or 1983, even ordinary dimes of those years from Philadelphia or Denver in pristine condition command a significant premium (worn ones do not). Far more expensive are the dimes erroneously issued in proof condition in 1970, 1975 and 1983 that lack the "S" mint mark. One of only two known from 1975 sold at auction in 2011 for $349,600. [27] [43]

The History of Roosevelt Dimes

It was 1945 and at a time in history when the American public yearned for a way to honor the fallen leader who had finally won victory after years of struggle and worry. World War II was drawing down to conclude, and in that April, Franklin Eleanor Delano Roosevelt, the nation's first four-term president, died at the age of 63. Plans were quickly drawn up within the Treasury Department to introduce a silver coin to honor the president. The symbolic reality of Roosevelt's struggle with polio lead to the founding of the "March of Dimes" fund raising campaign founded by Roosevelt during his first year in office. Polio, at that time was known only as "infant paralysis".

The long 40-year tradition of inviting outside artists to compete for new coin designs was circumvented to save time in this instance. The design work was given to Chief Engraver, John R. Sinnock. Sinnock's first models were submitted to the federal Commission of Fine Arts. This was done by current acting Mint Director Leland Howard on October 12, 1945. They were rejected for specific design issues and recommended the competition process to be engaged. They named five sculptors who they felt could provide the talent. The need was to have the silver coins ready by the 1946 March of Dimes campaign that was planned to begin on Roosevelt's birthday on January 30th. The suggestion was rejected by then Mint Director, Nellie Tayloe Ross.

According to records Sinnock took the review from the Commission of Fine Arts and made the requested changes. The too-small head of Roosevelt was replaced by a larger bust with a much more miniscule IN GOD WE TRUST. LIBERTY remains today in large letters, but was moved to the left, directly above the portrait. Below Roosevelt's neck small signatory initials "JS" were placed along with the date. On the reverse was displayed an upright torch representing freedom with olive and oak branches on each side to represent peace and victory. E PLURIBIS UNUM was awkwardly placed in between those elements in a single line. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and ONE DIME are arranged in arches going around and separated one from the other with tiny dots. These last-minute revisions were approved by January 8th, 1946 by the Fine Arts Commission. They also garnered approval from Treasury Secretary Fred Vinson. With the authorizations in place, Director Ross then ordered the Mint to begin production of the silver dime coin beginning the hubs and dies, so coinage could be produced as soon as possible.

There remains some controversy in this area to this day. The designs for the final model submitted by Sinnock bore an uncanny resemblance to a bas-relief bust that had been gifted to the president five years earlier. It is very close to an exact copy of this original portrait. Numismatic scholars to this day debate if the coin may actually have been designed by Selma Burke, creator of this bas-relief, with John Ray Sinnock taking the credit.

This was the first coin to be issued to depict a real person. Others bore an image of the Lady Liberty, or the winged Lady Liberty called "Mercury" shown on the first dime. The first issue of the coin created a backlash from the post-war, McCarthy era paranoid and projection-happy public. Accusations came in that the "J.S." stamped to identify the designer actually stood for and demonstrated a secret Treasury Department allegiance to Joseph Stalin.

Regardless of the unsubstantiated nature of the rumors, the fear generated by the notion of Communist influence had a big effect, and the next silver coin issued that was designed by Sinnock included his middle initial "R". Even when this was done, the US Treasury Department received letters asking how they had learned Stalin's middle name (which in reality was Vissarianovich).

Even with this additional measure, the US Treasury Mint Department was forced to release a statement identifying the creator of the silver dime coin, and refute the claims of "Reds" having infiltrated the Treasury Mint Department. The Franklin Half Dollar was also designed by Sinnock and was also given this paranoid response. Apparently rumors circulated widely that a Russian spy had infiltrated the US Treasury Mint, and had subversively succeeded at getting Stalin's initials onto our coinage.

The first Roosevelt Dime was 90 percent silver and ten percent copper. The high-silver content dimes were available from 1946 through 1964, when the metal percentages were changed by the US Treasury Department. The dimes had a reeded edge, which made it easy to see if anyone had tried to shave off any of the silver. They weighed 2.50 grams.

In 1965 the Treasury Department decided to change the percentage of metals within the coins to 75 percent pure copper in the middle with 25 percent nickel, bonded onto the copper center. This is the combination still used today. These coins weigh in at 2.27 grams. They are 17.9 mm in diameter and the edges are still reeded for the sake of long-standing tradition. They are minted in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver and West Point.

Some hub changes have occurred over time. The first occurred in 1946 when it was noticed that some of the obverse designs were indistinct. The signature initials could not be clearly viewed. Some other modifications occurred in '64 and '81, and since then new hubs are introduced frequently. The wear that results is heavy, causing a need for repeated die sinkings. They appear almost annually but are difficult to detect without professional training.

Beginning in 1950, these coins were proofed at the West Point Mint. This was done to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the dime, and was included in the uncirculated set that year. Some find this appropriate since the West Point Mint is known to be very near-to the Roosevelt Estate, now Hyde Park, where FDR and his wife, Eleanor, were laid to rest. This is also why the unique West Point mintmark seemed to many to be a fine choice of location for circulation for this coin. The proofs that emerged from this Mint are subsequently valued higher than the others for this reason.

The Roosevelt dime has been coined in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. The mintmark was located just left of the base of the torch from 1946. In 1968 onward it was placed just above the date. The coins struck in Philadelphia bore no mintmark at all until 1980 when the letter P was introduced to identify the Mintage location. Coins minted in Denver and San Francisco bore the marks S and D respectively, except from '65-'67 when the mintmarks were omitted entirely. Dimes for circulation were minted through 1955 until the San Francisco Mint was converted into an assay office for ten years. The two other mints continued production until 1965 when the facility in San Francisco had to be reactivated to deal with a crisis of coin shortage. During the last months of 1965 a series of silver dimes dating 1964 that carried no mintmark, were struck.

Proofs were coined at the Philadelphia Mint beginning in 1950, and these dates through 1955 are all worth more than subsequent proofs. Releasing coinage from proofs was suspended when the copper-nickel dimes were released into circulation in 1965. There were no proofs coined from '65 through '67 except for "special mint sets" that were coined from the San Francisco Mint. These have a "proof-like" quality to their surfaces. These lesser-quality proofs are not struck as boldly as the true-proofs, and less care was taken during handling which means they now display much nicking and abrasion even when found within original packaging. The proof coinage did return in 1968. There was an S-Mint series coined beginning in 1968 that bear the mint mark S (referring to the San Francisco Mint where they were struck) and these are for sale exclusively to collectors. These are coined both as the conventional copper-nickel clad dimes, and those of the original silver standard. The regular dimes in circulation today are coined in Philadelphia and Denver.

The mintage numbers for the Roosevelt dime have always been high. They ranged from the tens to the hundreds of millions. The smallest mintage run for the circulation issue was 13.5 million of the 1949-S. The high production rates make none of the Roosevelt series a rare coin. After the 1949-S there was some brief excitement over the '55 mintages--the 1955-P only had 12.8 million, the '55-D had 13.9 and the '55-S had 18.9 million. As was expected, people were on the lookout for the '55 dimes. The uncirculated 55-P only retails for $3.15 over the intrinsic value of silver it contains in today's markets while the '55-D and '55-S retail at about $2 over the silver metal content value when in "mint condition". The coin again, is the only one that has a mintmark from West Point in circulation, since all others were proofs, so the '49-P retails for around $29, the '50-S goes for about $40, the '51-S retails at $15. Even the oldest coins from the 50's to the early 60's in top mint condition can catch between $1-$3 over the silver metal value it contains.

The Roosevelt dime remains the only US minted coin in circulation ever to receive a "W" mintmark since all others were only part of specially produced mint and proof sets. Since it is a circulation issue coin, higher values can actually still be found in the mint sets and proof sets. A mint-set retails for $10 while the '96-W proof goes for $25. The rarest of the entire Roosevelt series, the uncirculated proof the 1949-S, is worth more than its silver bullion value, and in its mint condition retails for just $45. To check for wear on one of these coins, see the high-points in FDR's hair, cheek, and flame, and on the horizontal bands of the torch.

The Mercury dimes are still considered to be the most beautifully crafted and their run contained the early and first 90 percent silver for all the dates and versions of that particular dime. The older, more classic dimes featured the seated Lady Liberty and the Barber dimes.

The value of most Roosevelt Dimes that are pre 1965 are generally based on their silver content. When they have negligible numismatic value, they are considered to be only junk silver coins. If they have collector value, then their value is something over the intrinsic silver content's worth. Roosevelt Dimes from 1965 and later are not made with any silver and are only worth face value. The junk silver dimes are highly sought after today because of the 90 percent silver they are made from.

1938… The March Of Dimes Organization

(PCM) Back in the year of 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, often referred to as FDR, founded an organization which was then called the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The foundation’s mission was to find a cure for polio, which FDR contracted.

The foundation immediately gained intense popularity, mostly due to its’ founder and the nations’ support for him. FDR believed that if everyone donated only a dime then polio could eventually become eradicated. After Roosevelt contracted the disease, it is said that he was never able to walk again on his own.

It is because of FDR’s motto about donating only a dime that his face was eventually memorialized on the dime coin after his death in 1945 and his foundation was renamed the March Of Dimes.

The March of Dimes, or as it was then called the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) was formed during the war years, so it was definitely a feat to try to get people to donate. The foundation made use radio, Hollywood and the popularity of FDR to garner support and it definitely worked.

According to the March Of Dimes official website, “Basil O’Connor, a close associate of FDR through his entire presidency, became the leading light of the March of Dimes for over three decades, and his immediate task in 1938 was to build an organization that could quickly respond to polio epidemics anywhere in the nation. As president of the NFIP, Basil O’Connor set out at once to create a network of local chapters that could raise money and deliver aid – an adventurous program that paid off substantially just as polio was on the rise.

Little was known about polio then, but the scientific committees established by the NFIP to fund virus research found opportunities to assist the war effort by investigating diseases affecting those in uniform.”

Many chapters of the March Of Dimes opened across the nation spearheaded by groups of volunteers, work that continues to occur to this very day with various missions. With the assistance of the volunteers numerous medical researchers were granted March Of Dimes research grants and eventually a young physician named Jonas Salk, MD was able to discover a vaccine that ended the polio virus in just a few short years.

In recent years, the March Of Dimes has now shifted their focus on the prevention of birth defects and on healthy pregnancies, as well as the prevention of premature births. They have once again proven successful and the March Of Dimes is “proud to uphold its commitment as the champion for all babies”.

Roosevelt Dime Key Dates, Errors and Values

“First of all let me say what makes my girl a dime is more than what you see, and not just ’cause her body is fine. She stood by me when nobody will come around. She looked me up when I was down.” – Charlie Wilson

The Roosevelt Dime is a US dime piece that was first produced in 1946, to honor President Franklin Delano Roosevelt after his death because of all of his work with the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (March of Dimes). President Roosevelt had been a victim of polio, and was instrumental in the organization of this foundation.

The NFIP originally raised money to aid polio victims and to fund research for a cure. They asked for donors to send a dime, which is where the name “March of Dimes” came from.

U.S. Mint Director Nellie Tayloe Ross planned in advance for this dime to be released on what would have been President Roosevelt’s 64th birthday, January 30, 1946 – also the day that the 1946 March of Dimes fundraiser began.

Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock was chosen to design the new dime because he had previously designed a medal of President Roosevelt. Sinnock’s design including Roosevelt on the front and the following on the reverse: a torch symbolizing liberty, an olive branch symbolizing peace, and an oak branch symbolizing victory.

Through 1964, Roosevelt dimes were made of 90% silver and 10% copper (1946-1964). After 1964, they are clad.

The Roosevelt dime’s ‘key’ dates and their values in dug condition are:

  • 1949-S ($3 to $5)
  • 1955 ($3 to $5)
  • 1955-D ($3 to $5)
  • 1955-S ($3 to $5)
  • 1996-W — released only in mint sets so probably not dug ($15 to $20)

Here are some of the error coins to look for and their value in average dug condition:


On December 4, 2013, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library launched FRANKLIN. What is FRANKLIN you ask?

FRANKLIN is a virtual research room and digital repository that provides free and open access to the digitized collections of the Roosevelt Library – to everyone, anywhere in the world. Whether you are a lover of history, a student working on a school project, or an experienced scholar and author, FRANKLIN opens a door to some of the most significant and in-demand historical materials our Library has to offer. Now you can search by keyword, browse through photograph galleries and document lists, and for the first time open whole folders of archival documents online – a level of discovery that till now was only possible in-person.

Many of the most important documents of the twentieth century are now available for you to view on FRANKLIN – from your living room, classroom, office or dorm room. With this initial launch, FRANKLIN makes 350,000 documents and 2,000 public domain photographs available to you now. And we will be adding even more digitized content in the months and years to come.

FRANKLIN is the result of a special cooperative effort — a unique combination of public, nonprofit, and corporate support. The Roosevelt Library and its parent agency, the National Archives, worked with nonprofit partner the Roosevelt Institute to digitize a large amount of microfilmed archival documents. The Library’s digital partner and web host, Marist College, then developed and implemented FRANKLIN’s underlying database infrastructure based on the Archon platform. Marist runs the system using powerful servers manufactured by Marist and Roosevelt Library corporate partner, IBM.

So go to the Roosevelt Library’s website to start exploring FRANKLINtoday!

People Mailed Dimes ‘By The Truck Load’ to FDR’s White House to Cure Polio

What can ten cents buy you? Today, virtually nothing. In 1938, though, it could buy about what $1.71 would today.  It could also help cure polio.

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The story of polio and the March of Dimes Foundation, which was officially incorporated on this day in 1938, is really about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the United States’ most popular presidents and the thirty-second man to hold that office.

Polio isn’t really a threat now, thanks to regular vaccinations and years of work, but in the early twentieth century it was a regular horror. “Polio wreaked havoc among American children every summer,” according to “The virus, which affects the central nervous system, flourished in contaminated food and water and was easily transmitted.” Nobody was safe, not even future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was diagnosed with  the disease at the unusually advanced age of 39. Thankfully, though, Roosevelt had the power—and popularity—to do something about it.

Roosevelt’s diagnosis came 11 years before his presidential campaign, writes Christopher Clausen for The Wilson Quarterly. He was elected governor of New York with his disability, and then president. Although there is a modern myth that people didn’t know Roosevelt used a wheelchair, he writes, they did know—he just didn’t advertise it, strategically presenting himself and restricting photo opportunities.

But the fact people knew may have contributed to their warm response to his polio fundraising efforts, first at annual “birthday balls” and then when he announced the creation of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (what polio used to be called) in late 1937, which became the March of Dimes the next year.

“Over the past few days bags of mail have been coming, literally by the truck load, to the White House,” he said in a speech published in The President’s Birthday Magazine on January 30, 1938—his birthday. “In all the envelopes are dimes and quarters and even dollar bills—gifts from grown-ups and children—mostly from children who want to help other children get well.” It was too much for the White House to handle, he said, which is why the new foundation was created.

The press immediately responded to the President’s new foundation, Clausen writes. Time’s story began with the lead, “Franklin Roosevelt is not only the nation’s No. 1 citizen but its No. 1 victim of infantile paralysis.”

Those truck loads of mail continued, funding the Foundation, which directly funded and administrated Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin’s vaccines for the virus. Dimes were always the focus of fundraising efforts, and the "March of Dimes" slogan was used in fundraising radio broadcasts that first year.

Why dimes? Most people could spare one, foundation administrator Eddie Cantor explained at the time, and they add up. “The March of Dimes will enable all persons, even the children, to show our President that they are with him in this battle against this disease,” he said.

That first year, FDR received $268,000, or more than two and a half million dimes. Eventually, it all added up to a cure.

About Kat Eschner

Kat Eschner is a freelance science and culture journalist based in Toronto.

Watch the video: FDR and the March of Dimes