Located near the Badlands of South Dakota sits a majestic monument to the progression of the U.S. from its formation as a country to the great nation it used to be circa 2016 represented by four of the most recognizable faces of past Presidents.
George Washington (1789 – 1797) was chosen because he was the nation’s founding father and first President. President Washington laid down the ground work for what today is known as democracy. He led his countryman to the American Revolution to win freedom against Great Britain. For his accomplishments he is the most prominent face on Mount Rushmore. (This may soon change with the face of Donald Trump being carved into the space by George Washington – just kidding, I hope).
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was chosen to represent expansion, because he was the president who signed the Louisiana Purchase and authored the Declaration of Independence. He put together and wrote the document that not only inspires democracy in the U.S., but around the world. Writing the declaration of independence is a pretty big accomplishment which definitely made the third President a strong candidate to have his face engraved on Mount Rushmore.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) was chosen because he represented conservation and the industrial blossoming of the nation. President Roosevelt, the 26th president brought the right kind of leadership to the country as the century turned. The U.S. experienced quick growth from an economic standpoint and President Roosevelt was there to guide it. He was one of the reasons the Panama Canal was built, connecting the east to west. He also helped eliminate corporate monopolies and was a strong advocate for the common working man.
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) was chosen because he led the country through the Civil War and believed in preserving the nation at any cost. President Lincoln was the glue that kept our nation together during one of it’s most trying periods, the Civil War. He was behind the abolishing of slavery which was probably his biggest accomplishment as the 16th president of the United States.
- The construction of Mount Rushmore National Memorial took 14 years, from 1927 to 1941.
- Historian Doane Robinson conceived the idea for Mount Rushmore in 1923 to promote tourism in South Dakota. In 1924, Robinson persuaded sculptor Gutzon Borglum to travel to the Black Hills region to ensure the carving could be accomplished. The mountain that Borglum chose to carve was known to the local Lakota as the “Six Grandfathers.” It had also been known as Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain, and Keystone Cliffs, depending who you asked.
- The mountain itself, at an elevation of 5,725 feet (1,745 metres), was named in 1885 for Charles E. Rushmore, a New York lawyer. The memorial, which covers 2 square miles (5 square km), was designated in 1925 and dedicated in 1927.
- Despite dangerous conditions, not one of the 400 men who worked to forge the monument died during the entire project. The men who worked on the mountain were miners who had come to the Black Hills looking for gold. Although they weren’t artists, they did know how to use dynamite and jackhammers.
The average workers salary on Mount Rushmore was .45 to .75 cents an hour. Talk about some affordable labor. The chief carver Luigi Del Bianco was paid $1.50 an hour.
- Construction on Mount Rushmore—consisting of 90% dynamite blasts—began in 1927. The four faces of the presidents were slowly finished between the years of 1934 and 1939. Borglum died in 1941, leaving his son, Lincoln, to head up the project. But that didn’t much matter—construction ended in October 1941 when the project ran out of money. (The U.S. entered World War II not long after, which likely would’ve ended construction on the site anyway.)
- The head of George Washington is 60 feet tall with a nose that is 21 feet tall. Theodore Roosevelt’s head is slightly smaller, Abraham Lincoln’s is slightly taller. Each of the eyes on Mount Rushmore are about 11 feet wide. Each mouth is about 18 feet wide. Imagine climbing 506 steps to reach the top of Mount Rushmore-this was how many steps the workers had to climb each day! The height of a six-story building!
A cave called the ‘Hall of Records’ sits behind the monument and contains a vault of 16 porcelain enamel panels with text of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, biographies of the 4 presidents and Borglum, and history of the U.S.
- The ‘Hall of Records’ played a role in the plot of the 2007 movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets, starring Nicolas Cage. Mount Rushmore was also used as a key backdrop in the 1959 Cary Grant movie North by Northwest, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
- The total cost of creating the Rushmore sculpture was $989,992.32, which included wages for 400 workers. About 84% of it was paid for by the federal government. Less than a million but irreplaceable!
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial is open year–round with only the Sculptor’s Studio closed from October – April. Visitors in the winter will find it far less crowded – roughly 5% of the visitors coming through the gates during December – March that would come through in July or August. The day we were there it was very foggy and we were lucky to get a shot of it at all.
This giant monument is celebrating its 78th anniversary in 2019