Designer of the Dime

Updated February 23, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

The Question:

Is it true that an African-American women by the name of Selma Burke designed the dime?

The Answer:

Unfortunately, the answer isn't a simple one. The profile of Franklin Roosevelt found on the U.S. dime is believed to be based on a sculpture by Selma Burke. But the U.S. treasury credits the coin's design to former chief engraver at the U.S. Mint, John Sinnock. The question has stirred a bit of controversy.

Former President Roosevelt sat for a sculpture in 1944 and the bronze plaque created by Burke was unveiled by President Harry Truman in 1945 (five months after Roosevelt's death). This plaque can still be found at the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, D.C.

Sinnock was commissioned by Congress to design the dime after the death of Roosevelt. His design, which looked very similar to Burke's work, was approved in 1946. The controversy regarding the dime began when Burke and others began questioning why the initials "J.S." appeared on the dime and there was no mention of Burke? Some people think the snub was racially motivated. In other words, because Burke was African-American, recognition of her work was purposely excluded.

Also, in a related topic:

We dug a little deeper and discovered that the Recorder of Deeds Building, located at the corner of D and Sixth streets NW in Washington D.C. is an unheralded shrine to African-American history.

In addition to Burke's plaque outside, the interior of the building features huge murals of Crispus Attucks, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, and scientist Benjamin Banneker (who, among other things, published one of the nation's first almanacs!).

"Why" you ask? Well, almost all the appointees to the office of recorder of deeds have been African-Americans, beginning with Frederick Douglass in 1881.

-The Fact Monster

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