BY CHRISTINA DJOSSA
JANUARY 17, 2018
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME you looked—really looked—at a dime? It is the smallest coin in U.S. circulation, so it takes a keen eye to see the very subtle “JS” just beneath Franklin D. Roosevelt’s truncated neck. These are the initials of John Sinnock, the U.S. Mint’s Chief Engraver from 1925 to 1947, who is credited with sculpting the profile of the 32nd president. However, institutions such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum—and even Roosevelt’s son—credit another sculptor with inspiring the design: Selma Burke, the illustrious Harlem Renaissance sculptor. So where is credit due? The answer is … complicated.
In 1943, 43-year-old Selma Burke won a Commission of Fine Arts competition and a rare opportunity to sculpt the president’s likeness for the new Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, D.C. Burke, renowned for her Booker T. Washington bust, ran into some problems, since she didn’t feel that photographs captured Roosevelt’s stature. So the sculptor wrote to the White House to request a live-sketch session. The administration, to her utter shock, agreed.
Read the whole article by Djossa at “Atlas Obscura”: