On This Day In 1790 Benjamin Franklin Died At The Age Of 84
As we look back on the anniversary of his death, we remember Benjamin Franklin as a major player in our nation's history. He has been memorialized with statues and commemorative medals, but the biggest memorial to Franklin for us as coin collectors is the Franklin half dollar.
Franklin was considered several times in the early to mid-1900’s as a possible replacement for antiquated coin designs, but such changes were put off due to the World Wars and the extra coinage required during them. Then, in 1947 Mint Director Ross, who was himself a huge fan of Franklin decided to push forward with plans to change the walking liberty half design to one with a bust of Franklin on the obverse. The Mint's chief engraver at the time and his successor came up the design that was eventually used, with the Liberty bell and a small eagle on the reverse and it was released in 1948.
Some point out that putting Franklin on coinage is ironic since he was opposed to having any man's likeness on coins, instead he proposed that coins have proverbs on them so that bearers of the coins could reflect on them frequently. It is also funny that Franklin appears on a coin with even a small eagle on since he was greatly opposed to them, calling them "scavengers" and stating that the wild turkey should be the national bird.
Despite these little funny anecdotes, I think as we look back on this anniversary of Franklin's passing that he would appreciate and approve of the memorial the half dollar is of a man that help found our nation and ensure our freedom.