While sitting for a portrait on April 12, 1945, Franklin Delano Roosevelt suddenly complained about a severe headache, slumped forward unconscious, and passed away later the same day. Due to his popularity with the American public, Treasury officials suggested that a denomination should be chosen to feature a portrait of the former President. The dime was eventually selected, with the new designs to be prepared by United States Mint Engraver John R. Sinnock.
In late 1945, Sinnock submitted his sketches of his design for the Roosevelt Dime to Commission of Fine Arts. The initial designs were not approved and some minor changes were made, in particular to the size, placement and font of the inscriptions. The finished design was approved in January 1946 and production soon began. The entire process was rushed considerably to so that the first release of the newly design coins would coincide with the with the “March of Dimes”, a charity that had been publicly supported by Roosevelt. This annual fund raising event still exists, with its main goal to prevent birth defects and improve overall health of newborns.
The new dime featured a portrait en profile of the former president on the obverse. Although not confirmed, some historians believe that Sinnock copied his portrait from a bust made by the African-American artist Selma Burke. The inscription LIBERTY is in front of the portrait, and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST and the date are below. The designer’s initials, JS are near the truncation of the neck in a small font, which makes the letters barely visible on circulated coins or coins struck from worn dies.
The initial reverse design prepared by Sinnock depicted a lit torch held by a single hand, but the committee strongly disagreed with the design. On the final sketches, and the dimes that were minted as well, the hand was removed and the torch was surrounded by an Olive branch and an Oak branch. The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM is in a straight line, interrupted by the torch and branches. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is above with denomination spelled out as ONE DIME below.
When the first Roosevelt Dimes had entered circulation, there was immediate controversy surrounding the presence of the designer’s initials “JS”. Some people incorrectly believed that the letters stood for Joseph Stalin, the communist leader of the Soviet Union, prompting news paper articles to be written around the nation. The United States Mint quickly issued a formal press statement, noting that “JS” stood for John Sinnock. After that point, the controversy quickly dissipated, and the new dimes circulated freely and were readily accepted.