Mount Rushmore National Memorial

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by swyant3885
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Social Studies
American History

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Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Gutzon Borglum



Mr. Wyant and I visited the Mount Rushmore National Memorial on June 16, 2013. It was a beautiful day and a memorable experience!

On December 28, 1923, State Historian Doane Robinson suggested carving giant statues into the Black Hills of South Dakota as a way of bringing tourism to the state. Robinson envisioned a parade of Indian leaders and American explorers; he felt this would represent the shaping and development of the western frontier. Robinson presented his idea to Peter Norbeck, a South Dakota Senator who had a deep interest in and appreciation for the Black Hills. Senator Norbeck and his close friend, Congressman William Williamson, wrote and promoted legislation for years in order to ensure sufficient funding for the project. Norbeck and Williamson are credited with acquiring 85% of the memorial's total funding.

Fun Facts: The mountain was named in 1885 after Charles E. Rushmore, a New York City attorney who was visiting the Black Hills on a business trip. Borglum chose Mount Rushmore as the location for the sculpture because it had a broad wall of exposed granite.Mount Rushmore is 5,725 feet tall.The memorial cost $989,992.32 to build. Not a single death occurred during the 14-year project. The heads are approximately 60 feet tall. The heads erode one inch every 10,000 years. 90% of the heads were carved with dynamite.

Robinson contacted master sculptor Gutzon Borglum and asked him to design and oversee the building of the sculpture. Although Borglum liked Robinson’s original idea, he wanted the sculpture to convey the meaning of America and suggested sculpting the heads of United States presidents. Borglum chose four presidents to carve: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Borglum believed these presidents represented the first 150 years of American history. George Washington represents the birth of America; Thomas Jefferson represents the expansion of America; Abraham Lincoln represents the preservation of America; Theodore Roosevelt represents the development of America.

On October 4, 1927, construction began. Over the next 14 years, nearly 400 workers helped build the memorial. The heads were sculpted one at a time through a specific building process. After exposing and preparing an egg-shaped volume of rock, measurements were calculated for facial features. Dynamite was used by skilled blasters to shape the rock. After rough facial features were shaped, workers suspended themselves in special swings called Bosun chairs and used pneumatic drills to honeycomb the granite. Excess rock was then chiseled off and pneumatic hammers were used to create a smooth, white surface. Sadly, Gutzon Borglum passed away on March 6, 1941. His son, Lincoln Borglum, carried on his work until the sculpture’s completion on October 31, 1941.


For more information on the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, please visit the official website at

William Williamson (left) and Peter Norbeck (right)

Doane Robinson



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