Three years after the end of World War II, the United States Mint announced intentions to replace the aging Liberty Walking half-dollar design with a brand new motif featuring a likeness of noted American inventor, philosopher, and statesman, Benjamin Franklin. Treasury Secretary John Snyder had hopes that Franklin's virtues of thrift and financial responsibility might be included among the many themes celebrated and commemorated by the coin's design. The United States Mint produced the coin until 1963, when special legislation replaced it with the Kennedy Half-Dollar.
Franklin's image on the obverse of coin was created by John R. Sinnock, who was also responsible for Franklin Roosevelt's portrait on the obverse of the 1946 dime. For the reverse of the Franklin half dollar, the Mint chose another icon from America's founding era, the Liberty Bell. However, a problem arose in the design as, according to established law, a representation of an eagle must be present on all silver coins with denominations greater than one dime. U.S. Mint sculptor, Gilroy Roberts, added a small eagle to the left of the Liberty Bell on Sinnock's design in order to comply with the requirement.
Following the tragic events of November 22, 1963, the United States Mint, at the behest of the newly sworn President Lyndon Johnson, began designing a coin for circulation that would feature the image of President John F. Kennedy. An influx of letters from the public to the Mint suggested that a significant portion of the grieving American citizenry agreed with the idea of honoring the late thirty-fifth President. The White House proposed the new coin be of half-dollar denomination and Congress swiftly passed the appropriate legislation to fast track production.
The Chief Engraver of the United States Mint at the time, Gilroy Roberts, created the now famous, commanding bust of President John F. Kennedy, which appears on the obverse of the coin. The reverse of the coin features U.S. Mint Engraver Frank Gasparro's slightly modified version of the official Presidential Seal. The new half-dollar coin became a part of the nation's circulating coinage starting in 1964 and remains so to the present. The only major change in design over the past 46 years came in 1976 when the United States celebrated its bicentennial. Just for that year, the reverse displayed an image of Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the obverse featured a dual date of 1776 - 1976. The original design resumed in 1977.
Liberty Walking Half-Dollar:
Renowned designer Adolph Weinman created the images displayed on this legendary fifty-cent piece which was struck by the United States Mint between the years 1916 and 1947. The obverse shows Lady Liberty mid-step, draped in the American flag with her right arm extended toward the sun and her left arm cradling olive branches. The reverse features a bald eagle perched on a branch.
The Liberty Walking Half-Dollar and the Mercury Dime, both designed by Adolph Weinman and introduced in 1916, each replaced a coin created by Charles Barber in their respective denominations. A new initiative championed by President Theodore Roosevelt near the turn of the century sought to have the nation's coinage redesigned and infused with a fresh sense of artistry. The movement resulted in the Barber-designed half-dollar, quarter-dollar, nickel, and dime being succeeded by the Liberty Walking Half-Dollar, Liberty Standing Quarter-Dollar, Buffalo Nickel, and Mercury Dime between the years 1913 and 1916.