Like many public projects, Mt. Rushmore was conceived as a way to encourage tourism. The project was thought up by Doane Robinson of the South Dakota Historical Society in the early 1920s. Peter Norbeck, who was serving as South Dakota’s Senator at the time, gained Washington approval and funding for the concept. Robinson then proceeded to hire the sculpture Gutzon Borglum to implement the vision. It was Borglum who selected the specific location, chose the four presidents to be featured, designed the sculpture, and oversaw the work, i.e. just about everything.
As might be expected, an incredible amount of work was involved in creating the massive sculptures shown above. Started in 1927, the work took 14 years to complete. Over 400 tons of rock were removed— around 90% by carefully placed dynamite charges and the rest by jack hammers and facing bits. The latter designed to smooth the rock. Over 400 workers were recruited to do the work, among them local miners, lumbermen and ranchers. Going to work involved first climbing 700 steps to the top of the mountain. Workers weren’t paid for the climb. The carvers would then be lowered by rope to do the job.
Next post: It’s back to Egypt with a focus on Memphis, a giant statue of Ramses II, and a look at one of the first pyramids created.
38 thoughts on “A Mountain and Its Monuments: Mt. Rushmore, SD”
Hope they never decide to put up a fifth president, regardless of who it is!
That’s right Steve. We both know who thought he should be up there. But then again, he also thought he should be President for life. 🙂
The only time we were there we had three small children in tow and it was December (we were moving from Texas back to Alberta.) Your photos are a good reminder that we have to go there again!
Absolutely, Margie. It would be interesting to see with snow on it, however. Thanks. –Curt
It was 1979. I seem to have 5 slides that we purchased so that we could see what Mt. Rushmore looked like when it wasn’t snowing. We have one slide we took – the President’s faces are barely visible through the snow.
How can anyone look up at that mountain and not be in awe of what humans are capable of!
Yes indeed. That’s a good point, G. Thanks. –Curt
Despite the fact photos of it are everywhere, everyone should visit the real thing if they get a chance. Thanks for the photos and essay as always, Curt.
Thanks Ray. I can’t even start to imagine all of the photos that have been taken, Ray. At 2 million per year with each taking numerous photographs the numbers add up quickly. And I agree on being there. It’s kind of like seeing a photo of the Grand Canyon as opposed to perching on the edge or hiking down.
Thanks for this amazing post and all the detail.
You are welcome, Peggy. 🙂
I enjoyed finally learning about Mt Rushmore. Not surprisingly I’m not that up on my US history 😁 so I’ve wondered from time to time about this monumental carving. What a great idea Doane Robinson had.
The Presidents were all good and great people, Alison. We are in desperate need of such leadership now. It was an excellent idea and very well executed. Hard to imagine all of the work that went into it. –Curt
You have made my day! I love the photos from the different angles and the history. It looks like you were there on a beautiful day too.
Good to hear, Geraldine, when I can ‘make someone’s day.’ Grin. Appreciated. Thanks for sharing. It was a gorgeous day!
Wow Curt, I’ve never seen it so up close and personal. How amazing and what an extra-ordinate amount of work. It’s really hard to fathom how they got this so exact and the measures they “climbed” literally to work on a nostril.
Thank you for this wonderful post. I’ll be waiting for Egypt up next💞 💗
Hi Cindy. Thanks much. The amount of work and vision is incredible. One way they created the massive sculpture was that Borglum had developed a projector that he could use to outline the whole project on the mountainside. Measurements were then taken from the top down to guide the carvers. ❤️
Hey Curt, You’re so welcome. totally wild and wonderful to know they did that in the day. so amazing.. i love learning history from you. 🥰
🙂 History was always one of my favorite subjects.
lucky us!! ❣️
yes, its also for me 😊.
Fascinating to say the least, Curt! It’s hard to fathom this being completed in the first place. Another destination on the bucket list, but thanks for the details and wonderful photos. I enjoyed reading the history behind this monument. Now I want to go even more than before!
Thanks, Lauren. As I think I mentioned before, the whole area is worth visiting. All the more reason to go. 🙂 I am also going to include a post on the Chief Crazy Horse statue which is also monumental and about 20 minutes away.
It’s on my list, Curt, and can’t wait for the new post. 🙂
Here’s another interesting tidbit for you. Borglum died before the project was completed, and his eldest son Lincoln (named after the president, of course) finished the work. Lincoln Borglum has some Texas connections. He created this statue for the Loreto chapel at the Presidio in Goliad: the site of the massacre of Fannin’s men during the Texas revolution. Obviously, Lincoln Borglum’s sculpture was done well after that fact!
Thanks Linda. Lincoln had served as his dad’s right hand man for several years. Work was wrapped up in 1941 because of WWII. One task that Borglum had dreamed of, the building of a repository for key American documents, was not completed until much later. It was to be at the base of Lincoln with marble steps leading up to it. It was finally finished in 1998 without the steps and includes information on how and why the monument was built plus copies of some key documents. No steps were carved. The titanium case with its information is for posterity.
Another interesting fact was that Borglum was originally hired to do the Stone Mountain Sculpture and worked closely with the KKK, with whom he was sympathetic. Eventual disagreement led to him abandoning the project to be done by others.
I saw it in 1977. Still impressive after all these years. I don’t remember getting as close as you did – that must have been extra impressive.
Telephoto lens help, as you know, Dave. Grin.
Curt, we were there in 2005 and I was overwhelmed by Mt. Rushmore. It is a masterpiece for sure, but (and you might disagree with me here), it left me feeling uneasy. In the end, I have mixed feelings about this sculpture of America’s leaders and founders carved on the earth overtaken from the native people that lived in this country. So while I could and do appreciate the artistry and the grand effort of this carving (of men who were mortals and thus deeply flawed), I am also conflicted.
Interestingly, Sylvia, it was originally supposed to be of Native Americans and carried out in the Custer State Park Needles that I posted on before. What was done to Native Americans was terrible, no doubt about it, and I have posted on it several times over they years. In general, I feel that their selection of who to focus on represented some of America’s best presidents.
things that we can’t avoid from our life that is our history and clear noise.
This was absolutely fascinating, Curt. I so appreciate the research and information, photos from the past and present. I liked seeing the view from Borglum’s workshop. Many thanks.
As we travel, Jet, I am constantly amazed by what we find. The natural world, of course, which we love, but also the history and examples of what humans can accomplish when they are being creative instead of destructive. The pure genius and dedication. Thanks.
I never really thought about how amazing that sculpture is. It’s gigantic! And who knew what they’d face as they started cutting away at it? That early photo of the ridge looks so craggy and split. Oh, and I heard they’re thinking of adding Trump. 🙂 🙂
I think Trump was thinking about adding Trump, D. 😳
Hehehe. I think you’re right.