July 2019

Surprising Facts About Mt. Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

WESTERN SOUTH DAKOTA is home to incredible sights like the Badlands and the Needles of the Black Hills, but nothing “sticks out” quite like Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This giant monument is celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2016. Here are some fun facts about the sculpture that has captured the imaginations of so many.

  • The idea of creating a sculpture in the Black Hills was dreamed up in 1923 by South Dakota historian Doane Robinson. He wanted to find a way to attract tourists to the state.
  • It worked. Mount Rushmore is now visited by nearly 3 million people annually.
  • Robinson initially wanted to sculpt with the likenesses of Western heroes like Oglala Lakota leader Red Cloud, explorers Lewis and Clark, and Buffalo Bill Cody into the nearby stone pinnacles known as the Needles.
  • Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum was enlisted to help with the project. At the time, he was working on the massive carving at Stone Mountain in Georgia, but by his own account said the model was flawed and the monument wouldn’t stand the test of time. He was looking for a way out when South Dakota called.
  • Borglum, a good friend of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, dreamed of something bigger than the Needles. He wanted something that would draw people from around the world. He wanted to carve a mountain.
  • Besides, the Needles site was deemed too narrow for sculpting, and the mountain had better exposure to the sun.
  • Borglum and his son, Lincoln, thought the monument should have a national focus and decided that four presidents should be carved.
  • The presidents were chosen for their significant contribution to the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the country.
  • George Washington (1789 – 1797) was chosen because he was our nation’s founding father.
  • 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.
  • Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) was chosen because he represented conservation and the industrial blossoming of the nation.
  • Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) was chosen because he led the country through the Civil War and believed in preserving the nation at any cost.
  • The mountain that Borglum chose to carve was known to the Lakota as the “Six Grandfathers.”
  • It had also been known as Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain, and Keystone Cliffs, depending who you asked.
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