Mount Rushmore: The Story, Part I

Mount Rushmore – it’s so much more than what the eye first sees. When we approached Mount Rushmore, it was a beautiful sight.

IMG_0748 Mount Rushmore

Clearly, it is a work of art.

Gazing up at the four distinct faces on this mountain though, I felt as if something was missing. It was less than I’d expected, incomplete. The awe just wasn’t there.

After taking numerous pictures, I turned around from the stadium seating area and headed towards the museum inside. Here, the details my mind was looking for were added to the faces I saw, and the story was complete.

My youngest taking his aunt down into the stadium seating area

My youngest taking his aunt down into the stadium seating area

The story of Mount Rushmore is multi-faceted.

WHY?

Why was this monument even built?

There is one simple answer, and you’ll figure it out here shortly. Doane Robinson dreamed of bringing great numbers of tourists to South Dakota. The scenery of the black hills was already breathtaking, but “Tourists soon get fed up on scenery unless it has something of special interest connected with it to make it impressive,” he said.  Originally, Robinson’s idea was to carve the faces of western heroes into the side of the mountain. The area called the needles, would be a perfect location for this project.

So why? Tourism

WHERE? 

Where would the monument be located?

Robinson contacted Gutzon Borglum, a renowned sculptor, about designing and creating these faces in the needles. Immediately, Borglum rejected the needles as the location for this project. Seeing how spindly they were, he commented that they would look like totem poles if it could be done at all. After touring the area, Mount Rushmore was quickly chosen as Borglum’s first choice. Geologists approved the site, but Borglum was not finished making changes to Robinson’s plans.

Borglum felt the western faces would be too regional. Thinking larger than the west, he pitched the idea of a national treasure. Robinson gladly acquiesced, and Borglum was given blanket permission to carve the faces of his choosing. As a representation of the first 150 years of America, four presidents were selected to become the face of Mount Rushmore.

Gutzon Borglum

Gutzon Borglum

WHO?

Who are the faces of Mount Rushmore?

George Washington represents the foundation or founding of the nation. He was integral to many battles during the American Revolution, and he was inaugurated as the first President of the nation in 1789 in New York.

George Washington on Mount Rushmore

George Washington on Mount Rushmore

Thomas Jefferson represents the expansion of the nation, specifically through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Doubling the size of the United States, he created a vision for what America might become.

Thomas Jefferson on Mount Rushmore

Thomas Jefferson on Mount Rushmore

Abraham Lincoln represents the preservation of our nation through the Civil War. While this period was a dark time in our nation’s history, it could have ended much differently – with two separate countries. Lincoln fought desperately to save the Union from permanent division.

Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore

Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore

Theodore Roosevelt represents the development of our nation as a world power.

Theodore Roosevelt on Mount Rushmore

Theodore Roosevelt on Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore was a work in progress from 1927 to 1941, though the carving portion of this process took just over six years to complete. Much time was spent fundraising and designing the monument. Not surprisingly, many people question Roosevelt’s place on the mountain.  However, it is said that passing over Roosevelt would be like passing over Kennedy in the late 70s. Roosevelt had only been out of office 17 years and dead for ten years. While today we picture the faces of Kennedy and Reagan gracing the rocks of Mount Rushmore, remember, they hadn’t been elected president when the monument was created.

Stay tuned for details on HOW Mount Rushmore was created and answers to question such as why is Lincoln so far away. It’s fascinating!

If you could add one face to Mount Rushmore, who would it be?

 

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One Comment

  1. The original plan was for just the three suvyerors! However an engineer (geologist) missed a fault in the rock structure. This discovery caused the redesign that placed Lincoln further East and Teddy being a stand-in to fill the gap. While there we met with Nick Clifford, the last surviving worker and bought his book, Mt Rushmore Q&A. Also great pictures of the original plan in Mt Rushmore in Pictures – One last note; All the items we saw for sale at the National Memorial were crafted in CHINA!! Crazy Horse just down the road is all American-

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