MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MONUMENT
by John T. Marck
Easily one of the most amazing, fascinating and beautiful of all the monuments in the world is that of Mount Rushmore.
An American sculptor named Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941) carved Mount Rushmore between the years of 1927 to his death on March 6, 1941. Following his death, the final drilling was completed under the direction of Gutzon's son, Lincoln Borglum, on October 31st, 1941. Upon its completion in October 1941, a formal dedication was never held because Gutzon Borglum had died earlier in the year, and by December, the United States was involved in World War II. However, on August 10, 1927, President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the not yet started Mount Rushmore. It is said that his speech here was the finest of his career, as he was not known for his public eloquence. Coolidge said, "This memorial will crown the height of land between the Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic seaboard, where coming generations may view it for all time.....On this towering wall...is to be inscribed a memorial which will represent some of the outstanding events of American History..."
The four sculpted President's faces were dedicated individually while work on the others was being completed.
Mount Rushmore started when Doane Robinson, the State Historian, suggested the concept of carving a gigantic sculpture in the Black Hills in 1923, and invited Sculptor Gutzon Borglum to visit the state of South Dakota. Accepting the challenge, the first drilling began on August 10, 1927 when President Calvin Coolidge presented the tools needed to Mr. Borglum.
In February 1929, the Mount Rushmore Memorial Commission was created and $250,000 was appropriated by the U.S. government.
On July 4, 1930, the first figure, that of George Washington was dedicated, symbolizing the founding of the United States. On August 30, 1936, the figure of Thomas Jefferson was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. On September 17, 1937, the figure of Abraham Lincoln was dedicated on the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the constitution. And the last, Theodore Roosevelt, was dedicated on July 2, 1939 on the 50th anniversary of South Dakota's statehood.
Because Mount Rushmore, once completed, was never formally dedicated, President George Bush held a formal dedication on July 3, 1991, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of Mount Rushmore.
The elevation of Mount Rushmore is 5,725 feet. Each figure is approximately sixty feet in height, and the entire monument can be seen from roughly a distance of sixty miles. The total cost of the project was just under 1 million dollars.
In creating Mount Rushmore, nearly 500,000 tons of rock was removed by either blasting with dynamite or chiseling with jack hammers and pneumatic drills. Throughout this operation, many problems arose, as the blasting on the mountain exposed layers of granite that were of poor quality. Consequently, this necessitated the moving and turning of some of the figures. One example is that the figure of Thomas Jefferson was originally planned to be on Washington's right, but had to be moved to his left.
Gutzon Borglum said, "I want, somewhere in America on or near the Rockies, the backbone of the Continent, so far removed from succeeding, selfish, coveting civilizations, a few feet of stone that bears witness, carries the likenesses, the dates, a word or two of the great things we accomplished as a Nation, placed so high it won't pay to pull down for lesser purposes. Hence, let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away.
Photograph of Mount Rushmore ©2000-2006 by John T. Marck. Unauthorized duplication in any form is prohibited.
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