Mount Rushmore is one of the most fascinating monuments in the world. Four presidents, each 60 feet high, carved into the granite face of a mountain. The Mount Rushmore sculptor created an artistic imagining of Americana.
Nestled in the Black Hills of Keystone, South Dakota, Mount Rushmore draws millions of visitors each year from countries all over the world.
To mark President’s Day, check out these five surprising facts about our iconic national monument.
Mount Rushmore Sculptor Chose the Four
Gutzon Borglum, a well-known Danish-American sculptor (and good friend of French sculptor Auguste Rodin), named by South Dakota historian Doane Robinson to create the monument. Borglum specifically chose four Presidents for their notable contributions to American history.
The first, George Washington, represented the very foundation of American democracy.
The second face, Thomas Jefferson, expanded the nation and authored the Declaration of Independence.
The third, Theodore Roosevelt, represented the booming era of industry that gave America its foothold as a world superpower.
The fourth, Abraham Lincoln, represents the preservation of the nation as a single body.
Mount Rushmore was created to drive tourism
Robinson contacted Borglum about the project in 1923 with the goal to attract tourists to the state. With incredible sights like the Badlands and the Black Hills, South Dakota already had much to offer.
The addition of Mount Rushmore successfully drew visitors to the state to see the larger-than-life art installation. The carving, started in 1927 and finished in 1941, attracts more than three million tourists each year.
Mount Rushmore Sculptor and Team Carved with Dynamite
To carve the four famous faces into the side of the mountain, Borglum and his team had to move more than 450,000 tons of granite. What better way to do that in a hurry than with dynamite?
Enlisting the help of a munitions expert, the team inserted dynamite into carefully placed holes in the mountain. Amazingly, no one died as a result of the construction of the monument.
Rushmore was Originally the ‘Six Grandfathers’
The mountain that the world knows as Mount Rushmore today went by several previous names. Its first known name, given by the Lakota, was “Six Grandfathers.”
Settlers also referred to it as Sugarloaf Mountain, Cougar Mountain, Keystone Cliffs, and Slaughterhouse Mountain.
It finally got the name Mount Rushmore from a New York attorney named Charles Rushmore who came to South Dakota in 1885 to survey gold claims. Reportedly, he asked his guide the name of the mountain. His guide replied, “It’s never had one…till now…we’ll call the damn thing Rushmore.”
How Old is Mount Rushmore
Borglum understood the challenge – expense. Ultimately, the construction of Mount Rushmore cost nearly a million dollars and 14 years to complete.
Through a series of nine design changes Borglum chose a design that fit both the budget and the granite canvas. His original design included the four figures up to their waists, but the budget dictated that only their faces would make the final cut.
After the rough design emerged into the mountainside, a team of 400 men used a wire and pulley system, dangling in the air to complete the actual carving and, ultimately, the “fine carving” technique that gives the monument its smooth finish.