Selma Burke: Reexamining the Dime | Gale Blog: Library & Educator News | K12, Academic & Public

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min read | By Shirelle Phelps |
Every day we look at the coins in our purses, pockets, and wallets and never actually think much about the artists who created the images on them. The dime bag is no different—or is it ?

The dime bag is the smallest coin in U.S. circulation, but if you look closely, you ’ ll see the initials “ JS ” just below Franklin D. Roosevelt ’ s neck. The initials belong to John Sinnock, the U.S. Mint ’ s head engraver from 1925 to 1947, who is credited with sculpting the profile of FDR, the 32nd president of the united states of the United States. however, many credit Selma Burke for the design, including Roosevelt ’ s son and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Burke ’ randomness portrayal, which she spent two years working on, is entirely recognized as an inspiration and model for the final picture used on the dime .
Selma Hortense Burke is a black american sculptor who was born on December 31, 1900, in Mooresville, North Carolina. She grew up in a large family, the one-seventh of 10 children of Rev. Neil and Mary Elizabeth Colfield Burke. As a child, she much played with riverbed mud near her dwelling and loved how the mud felt. Inspired by her enate grandma, who was a painter, Burke ’ s adoration of sculpt grew. As an adult, she earned respective degrees and awards, and traveled internationally, studying in France, Germany, and Austria. While in Paris, Burke worked under Henri Matisse, whom she credits as one of her many influences. When she returned to the States due to the terror of Nazis, she created the persona of FDR that ’ mho engraved on the U.S. dime bag .
In 1943, Burke won a Commission of Fine Arts contest and a rare opportunity to sculpt the president of the united states ’ s compare for the new Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, D.C. While creating the prototype of FDR, she found it challenging, so she wrote to the White House to request a live sketch school term. To her surprise, they agreed. In February 1944, Burke met with Roosevelt and sketched his profile on a brown university paper bag. He invited her back for another session the follow day. About a year late, fair months before the president ’ s death, Eleanor Roosevelt visited Burke ’ s home in New York to see the final draft. Mrs. Roosevelt didn ’ triiodothyronine believe it represented him well because she thought FDR looked besides young. Burke responded, “ I didn ’ t make it for today, I made it for tomorrow and tomorrow. ”
unfortunately, President Roosevelt died before the official unveil of the plaque. To commemorate his bequest and his establish of the March of Dimes, the U.S. Mint and Congress proposed engraving FDR ’ s portrait on the dime. John Sinnock was chosen to sculpt the visualize, as he had experience sculpting presidents in profile while teaching at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art. Sinnock besides worked at the Philadelphia Mint as an adjunct engraver. There, he designed presidential medals for Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, and late Roosevelt ’ mho third base inaugural address presidential decoration. Sinnock ’ s dime bag was released to the populace on January 30, 1946, which would have been Roosevelt ’ s 64th birthday, but not without controversy.

The most outspoken critic of the dime was Selma Burke. She claimed it bore a strike resemblance to her portrait, and many others agreed. however, when Burke demanded an probe into Sinnock, she said the FBI investigated her rather. Sinnock denied Burke ’ s accusations, and died just a year after the coin was issued. Years late, argue among numismatists ( those who study coins, paper currentness, and medals ) continues. Some credit Burke unambiguously, while others have conducted side-by-side comparisons to suggest significant differences between the sculptures, particularly with Roosevelt ’ s intrude and hair’s-breadth .
After the U.S. Mint officials gave credit to Sinnock for the dime bag, Burke continued sculpting. She besides founded the Selma Burke School of Sculpture in New York, the Selma Burke Art Center in Pittsburgh, and was honored by President Jimmy Carter with the Women ’ s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award in 1979. even without credit for the dime, Burke was great in her own mighty. She died in 1995 at the age of 94 .
As you reexamine the dime in your pouch, learn more about Selma Burke and many more perplex people in Gale In Context: Biography and explore !
To expand support for Black History Month far, check out these eBook titles, all available on the award-winning Gale eBooks platform.

Shirelle Phelps

Meet the Author

Shirelle Phelps is a director of Content Strategy and Development for Gale products that highlight biographies, film, law, automotive ( Chilton ), science, and health subject. She enjoys vacationing in the west with her family and taking bicycle riding adventures with her husband.

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