Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore.
Sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum, Mount Rushmore features 18-meter (60-foot) sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
Following are the main reasons according to the National Park Service why each of the four presidents was chosen for the sculpture:
• George Washington – He was the first president and represented the foundation of American democracy.
• Thomas Jefferson – With the Louisiana Purchase, he greatly expanded the nation. He was also the author of the hugely influential Declaration of Independence.
• Theodore Roosevelt – He not only represented the industrial development of the nation, but was also widely known for conservation efforts.
• Abraham Lincoln – As the president during the US Civil War, he represents the preservation of the nation above all costs.
The faces appear in the order: Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln.
Mount Rushmore standing 1,745 meters (5,725 feet) above sea level was chosen due to its grand location, quality granite and because it faced southeast so enjoyed maximum exposure to the sun.
The construction of Mount Rushmore National Memorial took 14 years, from 1927 to 1941. Over that time period, some 400 workers erected the sculpture under dangerous conditions, removing a total of 410,000 tonnes (450,000 US tons) of rock.
The carving of Mount Rushmore involved the use of dynamite, followed by the process of “honeycombing“, a process where workers drill holes close together, allowing small pieces to be removed by hand.
Though it was arduous and dangerous work, no lives were lost during the completion of the carved heads.
Each of the president’s heads is equal to a six-story high building. Their eyes are 3.3 meters (11 feet) wide; their mouths are (5.5 meters) 18 feet wide; and their noses are (6 meters) 20 feet long.
George Washington’s nose is longer than the others by about a foot. His measures 21 feet (6.3 meters), top to bottom.
The image of Thomas Jefferson was originally intended to appear in the area at Washington’s right, but after the work there was begun, the rock was found to be unsuitable, so the work on the Jefferson figure was dynamited, and a new figure was sculpted to Washington’s left.
Theodore Roosevelt, the most controversial choice among the four Rushmore presidents, had died only eight years before the blasting began.
Behind the sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, Gutzon Borglum envisioned a Hall of Records. It was completed more than 50 years after his death. sealed behind a 540-kilogram (1,200-pound) granite slab and tucked inside a wooden box are both original texts and copies of important American documents.
In 1937, a bill was introduced to Congress to add the image of women’s rights leader Susan B. Anthony to the mountain. Congress then passed a bill requiring only the heads that had already been started be completed.
A massive panel with 8-foot-tall gilded letters commemorating famous territorial acquisitions of the U.S. was also originally intended.
Originally, it was planned that the figures would be carved from head to waist, but insufficient funding brought the carving to a halt after completion of their faces. [Photo: a model at the site depicting Mount Rushmore’s intended final design.]
The whole project cost US $989,992.32.
Maintenance of the Rushmore memorial requires annual monitoring and sealing of cracks, work that is undertaken by trained mountain climbers. Due to budget constraints, the memorial is not regularly cleaned to remove lichens.
Approximately 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) of the memorial will be lost due to erosion in 10,000 years.
Originally known to the Lakota Sioux as “The Six Grandfathers“, the mountain was renamed after Charles E. Rushmore, a prominent New York lawyer, during an expedition in 1885.
The ownership rights of Mount Rushmore have long been disputed. To resolved that dispute, in 1980 the Sioux Nation won a big court case against the federal government where they were awarded a $15.5 million settlement for the land, plus an annual 5% interest rate for the debt that wasn’t paid for over 100 years. The total figure added up to over $100 million years. The Native tribes rejected the offer of payment, requesting that the title deeds to the land be returned. That didn’t happen. The case still isn’t resolved, although some tribes have laid a claim to the nine figure offer.
Visitor facilities have been added over the years, including a visitor center, the Lincoln Borglum Museum, and the Presidential Trail.
The Grand View Terrace — one of the best places from which to see Mount Rushmore — is located just above the museum.
The evening program and lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial is offered seasonally from mid-May through September.
Nearly three million people visit Mount Rushmore each year. The busiest months are June, July and August. May, September and October are less busy and popular months to visit as well.
Mount Rushmore has become an iconic symbol of the United States, and has appeared in works of fiction, and has been discussed or depicted in other popular works.
It is often depicted as a cover for a secret location; shown with faces removed, modified, or added; or parodied.
The memorial was also famously used as the location of the climactic chase scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 movie North by Northwest.
On August 11, 1952, the U.S. Post Office issued the Mount Rushmore Memorial commemorative stamp on the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. On January 2, 1974, a 26-cents airmail stamp depicting the monument was also issued.
Mount Rushmore once had an amateur baseball team.