MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL
The four figures carved in stone on Mount Rushmore represent the first 150 years of American history. The birth of our nation was guided by the vision and courage of George Washington. Thomas Jefferson always had dreams of something bigger, first in the words of the Declaration of Independence and later in the expansion of our nation through the Louisiana Purchase. Preservation of the union was paramount to Abraham Lincoln but a nation where all men were free and equal was destined to be. At the turn of the Twentieth Century Theodore Roosevelt saw that in our nation was the possibility for greatness. Our nation was changing from a rural republic to a world power. The ideals of these presidents laid a foundation for our nation as solid as the rock from which their figures are carved.
Each man possessed great skills and leadership of the brand our nation needed for the times. Today millions of visitors come to see Mount Rushmore and gain inspiration from these four great men.
Carved into the southeast face of a mountain in South Dakota are the faces of four presidents, a memorial to American history. The faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln look down from their stoney heights and remind everyone that even the impossible is possible.
South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson conceived the idea in 1923 to attract more people to the Black Hills of South Dakota with colossal carvings of western heroes. Robinson gained support from major players in South Dakota and Washington DC with the help of Senator Peter Norbeck and Congressman William Williamson. Congress passed legislation authorizing the mountain carving in Black Hills National Forest.
After trying to get another sculptor to do the work, Robinson contacted Gutzon Borglum. Borglum, who agreed to come out to the Black Hills in 1924 to look at the area and see if the carving was possible. When Borglum saw Mount Rushmore, he pointed to it and said, "America will march along that skyline."
Borglum liked Mount Rushmore because it faced southeast which meant it would receive good light throughout most of the day. It was the highest peak in the immediate vicinity, and the granite was very resistant, eroding one inch every 10,000 years. Robinson and Borglum selected the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to be carved into the stone.
Once they had a carving plan and a location was set, the work could begin. Borglum created a plaster model from which measurements were taken using the pointing system. On October 4, 1927 the first actual work of carving began.
Work began on Mount Rushmore with George Washington. Thomas Jefferson was started on Washington's right. After about two years of working on Jefferson, the granite was found to be badly cracked and Jefferson had to be blasted off the mountain. He was started again on the left side of Washington.
Washington's face was dedicated on July 4, 1934. Borglum was a genius at creating interest and excitement in his mountain carving. Local women from Rapid City made a 39 by 70 foot flag to cover the face before it was revealed to the public. Thomas Jefferson was dedicated in 1936 with President Franklin Roosevelt attending the dedication. Franklin Roosevelt had no intention of speaking at the dedication but was inspired by what he saw, and gave a brief speech.
"...I had seen the photographs, I had seen the drawings, and I had talked with those who are responsible for this great work, and yet I had no conception, until about ten minutes ago, not only of its magnitude, but also its permanent beauty and importance."
Abraham Lincoln was dedicated on September 17, 1937, the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. In 1939, the same year modern plumbing and night lighting was installed at the memorial, Theodore Roosevelt?s figure was dedicated.
For two more years the work continued on the mountain. Details and finishing touches were made. In March of 1941 Borglum died suddenly of an embolism. His son, Lincoln, took over the project for the next seven months, until funding ran out. The carving of Mount Rushmore was shut down and the presidential faces were complete as they stood.
Yet during these tumultuous years of the nation?s life the imposing granite face of Mount Rushmore had been unimaginably transformed into the likeness of four of our nation's greatest presidents. What had seemed almost impossible had been made a reality.
There is no camping at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. There are several campgrounds in Black Hills National Forest and Custer State Park nearby.