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In the Black Hills of South Dakota, there's an amazing memorial carved into the side of a granite mountain. Mount Rushmore is a National Monument that is visited by about three million visitors every year. It's become one of the best-known symbols of America and the freedom it stands for.
In 1923, South Dakota State Historian Doane Robinson came up with the idea for a sculpture in the Black Hills in order to promote tourism. His original thought was to have some American West heroes sculpted, like Lewis & Clark, but Gutzon Borglum believed that the sculpture should have broader appeal and chose four presidents to memorialize. Mount Rushmore was chosen largely because it faces southeast for maximum sun exposure. After the funding was in place, and the site had been dedicated, the drilling and carving began in 1927.
Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941) was an American artist and sculptor. He trained in Paris where he met Auguste Rodin and was influenced by his style. Back in the USA, he sculpted saints and apostles for a cathedral in New York City, and had a group sculpture accepted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As his career progressed, he became especially drawn to large-scale sculpting and the theme of heroic nationalism. He worked for a time on a carving on Stone Mountain in Georgia. His relationship with the organization funding that memorial ended, and his initial work on the site was cleared, but he had developed some techniques for sculpting on such a giant scale that would serve him well when he began work on Mount Rushmore.
Between 1927 and 1941, artist Gutzon Borglum, engineer Julian Spotts, and four hundred workers sculpted the 60 foot high carvings of four US presidents into the mountain. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln were chosen by Borglum for their roles in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory. The carving used dynamite, followed by a process called "honeycombing", in which workers drill holes close together and then remove small pieces of rock by hand. A total of about 450,000 tons of rock were blasted from the mountain. Washington's face was carved first. Originally, Thomas Jefferson was to appear on Washington's right, but once the work started they found the rock was unsuitable. So the design was altered, and Jefferson was sculpted to Washington's left instead. Despite the huge scale and the amount of potential risk, no workers died during the carving.
Check out the short video Deconstructing History: Mount Rushmore for some great images and facts.
On July 4, 1930, the George Washington figure was dedicated. Washington was chosen because of his role as the father of the country, and was intended to have the most prominent position in the sculpture.
On August 30, 1936, the Thomas Jefferson figure was dedicated, in a ceremony attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, and as the country's third president he doubled the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase. Borglum chose Jefferson to represent the growth of America.
On September 13, 1937, the Abraham Lincoln figure was dedicated. Borglum chose the 16th president of the United States for his conviction in preserving the Union and holding the nation together.
On July 2, 1939, the Theodore Roosevelt figure was dedicated. Borglum chose Roosevelt to represent the development of the United States, because of his leadership during a time of rapid economic growth as it entered the 20th century.
Unfortunately, Gutzon Borglum died in Chicago in 1941, with the project as he had envisioned it incomplete. His plan had been to have the figures shown head to waist, and he had planned additional carvings commemorating the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, and land acquisitions like Alaska and the Panama Canal. However, under his son Lincoln Borglum, the project was declared completed in October of 1941.
I so wish I had my own photos of Mount Rushmore to share in this post, as I have been there a few times, and it is breathtaking. However, my last visit was well before the advent of digital cameras! How about you - have you visited Mount Rushmore? Leave a comment and tell me about your visit, or if it's someplace that's on your bucket list to visit.
This post is (or will be) linked at Blogging Through the Alphabet hosted by A Net In Time and Hopkins Homeschool. Join in to see what others are sharing related to this week's letter!
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