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Facts about Mount Rushmore

Rita Putatunda Nov 05, 2020
Mount Rushmore is a monument constructed to honor the United States and four former Presidents for their outstanding contribution and patriotic guidance. This story brings to light some fascinating facts on the concept and construction of this famous sculpture.

Did You Know?

The idea of carving famous faces on Mount Rushmore was first conceived by South Dakota's state historian, Doane Robinson.
A monument's dimensions should be determined by the importance to civilization of the events commemorated. We are not here trying to carve an epic, portray a moonlight scene, or write a sonnet; neither are we dealing with mystery or tragedy, but rather the constructive and dramatic moments or crises in our amazing history. - So said Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who created Mount Rushmore.

Interesting Facts

» Mount Rushmore, originally known as the 'Six Grandfathers' by the Sioux community, is located near Keystone in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is an incomplete monument, as the original plan was to carve massive granite bust of the United States Presidents. The project was dropped because it ran out of quality granite and government funds.
» Mount Rushmore represents the first 150 years of U.S. history, containing the 18 m or 60-feet sculpted heads of some of the previous presidents of the United States, namely George Washington, who was in office from 1789 to 1797;
Thomas Jefferson, who was president from 1801 to 1809; Theodore Roosevelt, from 1901 to 1909; and Abraham Lincoln from 1861 to 1865. They are considered four of the most notable presidents of the United States.
» A bill was introduced in the year 1937, to carve a 5th face on the mountain to depict the notable feminist leader "Susan B. Anthony". The plan was neglected, as there weren't enough rocks and there was absence of financial aids.
» Doane Robinson, who was finding ways to attract more people to the Black Hills of South Dakota, was highly impressed by the concept of having the Confederate monument carved on the Stone Mountain in Georgia.
Back then, Gutzon Borglum was the sculptor working on the Stone Mountain. Robinson approached Borglum with this challenge of carving 60-feet busts of heroes. Borglum abandoned the Stone mountain project and accepted Robinson's challenge.
» Doane Robinson had local western heroes in mind and selected the area known as the "Needles" in Black Hills of South Dakota for carving. Upon inspection, the sculptor found the area to be inappropriate and bad for carving. It was Gutzon Borglum who suggested the carvings of national heroes on Mount Rushmore to be perfect for tourism.
» It took more than 14 years for Gutzon Borglum, along with about 400 workers, to carve out the 60-feet sculpted heads of the four presidents. During the construction, the workers climbed 506 steps in order to get to the top. And yet, although the work was dangerous, not a single life was lost.
» It was not easy to finish the construction of the monument. It required great expertise and craftsmanship. Dynamites were used to remove the rocks from the mountain till only a thin, three to six inch layer of granite was left on it.
This final layer of granite was removed by a process known as "honeycombing". Then the surface was polished using a bumper tool, that left the faces smooth, trimmed, and refined. Gutzon Borglum was 60 years of age when he started this project in the year 1927.
» The sculpted faces rise up to 5,500 feet above sea level. If the torso had been attached to scale, the whole thing would have measured 465 feet. Each of the sculptured heads is as high as a 6-story building.
» When measured from the top of the head to the chin, each sculpture is as high as the Great Sphinx of Egypt. The eyes measure 11 feet across, the mouth of each is 18 feet in width, and each President's nose measures 20 feet in length except George Washington's whose nose was carved 21-feet long.
» The workers used tools like air-powered hammers, wedges, nails, jackhammer (drillers), chisels, carvers, winch to lower the wooden plank or chair, and a bumper tool to carve out the finished heads. During the process, about 800 million pounds of rock were removed.
» Sculptor Gutzon Borglum's 1935 conception for the monument had a provision for a grand public stairway leading from the base of the mountain to a hall of records, behind the presidential heads. But when Gutzon ran out of quality granite, and the project ran out of money, the plan was laid-off. Climbing over or on the memorial has been officially prohibited since the work ended there in 1941.
» Hall of Records was supposed to store all the significant archives like the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Workers had carved a doorway and a small hallway before this project was stopped in the year 1938, as the government did not approve the funding.
» The carving started in the year 1927 and ended in the year 1941, after the death of the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum. It was his son, Lincoln Borglum, who finished the construction and declared it complete in October 1941.
» The entire Mount Rushmore National Memorial lies over 1,278 acres, which is managed by the National Park Service, and the total cost of the project was $98,999,232. It attracts about 3 million visitors annually. When you enter the memorial, you will find a walkway with 56 flags of the U.S. states and territories arranged alphabetically, reminding us of our nation's diversity, history and its values.
» The Avenue of Flags was added in the year 1976, on the occasion of completing 200 years of Independence.
It passes from the Concession Building to the Grandview Terrace, and was added as per a visitor's request. It also offers an astonishing view of the epic sculptures, along with these flags flying proudly just below the memorial and dates when each state was attained. The Grandview Terrace is the primary viewing, analyzing and a picture-taking spot.
» The four presidents represented were chosen because of their exceptional courage and wisdom. George Washington was chosen because he was the one who led the nation to democracy;
Thomas Jefferson, as he authored the Declaration of Independence; Abraham Lincoln because he brought slavery to an end in the U.S.; and Theodore Roosevelt, was chosen by Borglum, as he was the one who advanced the cause of the construction of the Panama Canal as well as promoted the causes of conservation & business.
Doane and Gutzon wished to create something grand in order to pay a tribute to these four presidents. They wanted to immortalize the vital contributions of these presidents towards the United States. They were picked because they "commemorate the founding, growth, preservation, and development of the United States".