It is one of America’s most famous and recognizable sculptures, attracting millions of tourists from all over the world each year. So just where is Mount Rushmore, and what is the history behind it?
Where is Mount Rushmore?
The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore, a large mass of rock in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota. Completed in 1941, it has become an iconic feature of the American landscape.
This famous memorial features 60-foot sculptures of US Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, who all made significant contributions to American history.
The original idea for Mount Rushmore can be credited to South Dakota historian Doane Robinson. In the 1920s, he came up with the idea to create large sculptures in South Dakota as a way to promote tourism. He wanted these monuments to reflect America’s past.
Robinson originally proposed the Needles, a well-known set of granite pillars in the Black Hills of South Dakota, as the location site for these carvings. However, the site was rejected by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who felt the Needles were composed of poor-quality granite, and would have been too thin and brittle to support the sculptures. In addition, the project was strongly opposed by Native American tribes like the Sioux, who consider the region to be sacred.
Ultimately, the batholith Mount Rushmore was chosen as the official memorial site. In addition to being made of stronger rock, this location also benefited from maximum sun exposure thanks to its southeastern positioning.
When proposing the attraction, Robinson initially suggested carving the faces of famous American West heroes, like Buffalo Bill Cody. However, Borglum would argue that the subjects should be more recognizable by the American public.
Borglum ultimately chose to depict George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, four Presidents he felt played critical roles in both preserving the Republic, and expanding its territory. From his perspective, these four presidents were the driving force behind some of the critical historical events that helped shaped the United States.
Along with 400 other sculptors, Borglum began construction on the project in 1927. President Calvin Coolidge kicked off the first ceremonial drilling on August 10th by handing Borglum a set of drill bits. The first actual carving wouldn’t begin until nearly two months later, on October 4th.
Borglum would use innovative new sculpting methods to create this iconic landmark, including dynamite and pneumatic hammers that blasted apart large amounts of rock in quick succession.
The first sculpture took three years to be completed. Borglum chose to work on Washington’s figure first, and it was officially unveiled (fittingly) on July 4, 1930. Workers soon found that the stone in the original site was too weak, and made the decision to move President Jefferson’s figure from the right of President Washington to the left.
President Jefferson’s figure was dedicated on August 30, 1936, in a ceremony attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Lincoln’s figure was revealed the following year on September 17th, followed by President Roosevelt’s nearly two years later on July 2nd.
The sculptor’s original vision was to have each president depicted from head to waist. However, due to lack of funding for the project, construction was forced to end early in October, 1941.
Mount Rushmore Today
Since its creation, millions of visitors from all over the world have flocked to the Black Hills of South Dakota to visit the granite monument. Known as the “Shrine of Democracy,” Mount Rushmore will continue to honor these four notable US presidents for years to come.
Okay, so you can now answer the question – where is Mount Rushmore? And you know at least 4 US Presidents. Can you name the rest? Test your presidential knowledge in the quiz below!