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Soon after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, legislation was introduced by Virginia Congressman Ralph H. Daughton that called for the replacement of the Mercury dime with one bearing Roosevelt's image. The dime was chosen to honor Roosevelt partly due to his efforts in the founding of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (later renamed the March of Dimes), which originally raised money for polio research and to aid victims of the disease and their families. The public had been urged to send in a dime to the Foundation, and by Roosevelt's death, the Foundation was already popularly known as the 'March of Dimes.'
Due to the limited amount of time available to design the new coin, the Roosevelt dime was the first regular-issue U.S. coin designed by a Mint employee in more than 40 years. Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock was chosen, as he had already designed a Mint presidential medal of Roosevelt. Sinnock's first design, submitted on October 12, 1945, was rejected, but a subsequent one was accepted on January 6, 1946.
The dime was released to the public on January 30, 1946, which would have been Roosevelt's 64th birthday. Sinnock's design placed his initials (JS) at the base of Roosevelt's neck, on the coin's obverse. His reverse design elements of a torch, olive branch, and oak branch symbolized, respectively, liberty, peace, and strength.