The Winged Liberty Head dime was in circulation from 1916 to 1945, the last in a series of Liberty images that adorned dimes from the founding of the nation. Because of the small wings attached to Lady Liberty's hat, this coin often is mistakenly called the Mercury Dime (after the speedy winged messenger of Greco-Roman mythology). However, the wings on this coin have a more poetic meaning: liberty of thought, the backbone of all other freedoms. To quote Benjamin Franklin, "Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech." Indeed, Liberty's headdress is a Phrygian cap, worn in ancient Rome by emancipated slaves as a symbol of their freedom.
The Winged Liberty Head dime design was created by Adolph A. Weinman. Made of 90% silver (with 10% cooper added for longevity in circulation), these dimes had serrated edges to assure that no one would try to shave any silver off the coin.
When, after being elected to four terms as President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in office in 1945, Congress passed legislation to replace Liberty's image with his. The dime was the perfect coin to honor FDR. He had founded the March of Dimes (originally known as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis) to raise money for polio research and to aid individuals and families afflicted by the disease.
The flipside of this coin also has some wonderful symbols that resonate with our Spare A Dime themes (and the design of the theater space). We'll explore them in another post.