We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
Carved into the southeastern face of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest are four gigantic sculptures depicting the faces of U.S. The 60-foot high faces were shaped from the granite rock face between 1927 and 1941, and represent one of the world’s largest pieces of sculpture, as well as one of America’s most popular tourist attractions. To many Native Americans, however, Mount Rushmore represents a desecration of lands considered sacred by the Lakota Sioux, the original residents of the Black Hills region who were displaced by white settlers and gold miners in the late 19th century.
The Loss of a Sacred Land
In the Treaty of Fort Laramie, signed in 1868 by Sioux tribes and General William T. Sherman, the U.S. government promised the Sioux “undisturbed use and occupation” of territory including the Black Hills, in what is now South Dakota. But the discovery of gold in the region soon led U.S. prospectors to flock there en masse, and the U.S. government began forcing the Sioux to relinquish their claims on the Black Hills.
Warriors like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse led a concerted Sioux resistance (including the latter’s famous defeat of Gen. George Armstrong Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876), which federal troops eventually crushed in a brutal massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890. Ever since then, Sioux activists have protested the U.S. confiscation of their ancestral lands, and demanded their return. The Black Hills (or Paha Sapa in Lakota) are particularly important to them, as the region is central to many Sioux religious traditions.
The Birth of Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore, located just north of what is now Custer State Park in theBlack Hills National Forest, was named for the New York lawyer Charles E. Rushmore, who traveled to the Black Hills in 1885 to inspect mining claims in the region. When Rushmore asked a local man the name of a nearby mountain, he reportedly replied that it never had a name before, but from now on would be known as Rushmore Peak (later Rushmore Mountain or Mount Rushmore).
Seeking to attract tourism to the Black Hills in the early 1920s, South Dakota’s state historian Doane Robinson came up with the idea to sculpt “the Needles” (several giant natural granite pillars) into the shape of historic heroes of the West. He suggested Red Cloud, the Sioux chief who signed the Fort Laramie treaty, as a potential subject.
In August 1924, after the original sculptor he contacted was unavailable, Robinson contacted Gutzon Borglum, an American sculptor of Danish descent who was then working on carving an image of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee into the face of Georgia’s Stone Mountain. Robinson had a history of disputes with those who commissioned the Lee project, and they fired Borglum, who left the sculpture unfinished. During his work at Stone Mountain, Borglum associated with members of the newly revived Ku Klux Klan, although it’s unclear whether he actually joined the white supremacist group.
Borglum convinced Robinson that the sculpture in South Dakota should depict George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, as that would give it national, and not just local, significance. He would later add Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt to the list, in recognition of their contributions to the birth of democracy and the growth of the United States.
Sculpting the Presidents at Mount Rushmore
During a second visit to the Black Hills in August 1925, Borglum identified Mount Rushmore as the desired site of the sculpture. Local Native Americans and environmentalists voiced their opposition to the project, deeming it a desecration of Sioux heritage as well as the natural landscape. But Robinson worked tirelessly to raise funding for the sculpture, aided by Rapid City Mayor John Boland and Senator Peter Norbeck, among others. After President Calvin Coolidge traveled to the Black Hills for his summer vacation, the sculptor convinced the president to deliver an official dedication speech at Mount Rushmore on August 10, 1927; carving began that October.
In 1929, during the last days of his presidency, Coolidge signed legislation appropriating $250,000 in federal funds for the Rushmore project and creating the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission to oversee its completion. Boland was made the president of the commission’s executive committee, though Robinson (to his immense disappointment) was excluded.
To carve the four presidential heads into the face of Mount Rushmore, Borglum utilized new methods involving dynamite and pneumatic hammers to blast through a large amount of rock quickly, in addition to the more traditional tools of drills and chisels. Some 400 workers removed around 450,000 tons of rock from Mount Rushmore, which still remains in a heap near the base of the mountain. Though it was arduous and dangerous work, no lives were lost during the completion of the carved heads.
Mount Rushmore Depictions
On July 4, 1930, a dedication ceremony was held for the head of Washington. After workers found the stone in the original site to be too weak, they moved Jefferson’s head from the right of Washington’s to the left; the head was dedicated in August 1936, in a ceremony attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In September 1937, Lincoln’s head was dedicated, while the fourth and final head–that of FDR’s fifth cousin, Theodore Roosevelt–was dedicated in July 1939. Gutzon Borglum died in March 1941, and it was left to his son Lincoln to complete the final details of Mount Rushmore in time for its dedication ceremony on October 31 of that year.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, sometimes called the “Shrine of Democracy,” has become one of the most iconic images of America and an international tourist attraction. In 1959, it gained even more attention as the site of a climactic chase scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s film “North by Northwest.” (In fact, South Dakota did not allow filming on Mount Rushmore itself, and Hitchcock had a large-scale model of the mountain built in a Hollywood studio.)
In 1991, Mount Rushmore celebrated its 50th anniversary after undergoing a $40 million restoration project. The National Park Service, which maintains Mount Rushmore, records upwards of 2 million visitors every year. Meanwhile, many Sioux activists have called for the monument to be taken down, even as they continue to protest what they view as illegal U.S. possession of their ancestral lands.
Native Americans and Mount Rushmore, PBS.
Matthew Shaer, “The Sordid History of Mount Rushmore.” Smithsonian Magazine, October 2016.
Lisa Kaczke and Jonathan Ellis, “Oglala Sioux President says Mount Rushmore should be 'removed': What's behind the site's controversial history.” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, June 25, 2020
Discover why Gutzon Borglum decided to carve these four presidents into Mount Rushmore.
Learn more about the people that supported and the events that led to the completion of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
When did it start? When did it end? What happened in between? Find out here.
Historical Letters and Legislation
View and read some of the documents relating to the establishment of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Explore a brief summary of the carving of Mount Rushmore.
Hall of Records
Learn about Gutzon Borglum's plans for and his attempt to construct the Hall of Records.
Memorial Lighting History
Explore the different methods used to illuminate Mount Rushmore during its history.
Keeping Up With The Times
Learn more about the how the grounds around Mount Rushmore have evolved.
The Entablature Idea
Learn more about one of Gutzon Borglum's plans to carve an inscription into the mountain.
Avenue of Flags
Learn more about the locations of the state and territorial flags and when each became part of the United States.
Last updated: July 29, 2020
Contact the Park
13000 Highway 244
Building 31, Suite 1
Keystone , SD 57751
Park information. Phones are answered 7 days a week. Hours are 8:00 - 5:00 October through May, 8:00 - 10:00 June through mid-August and 8:00 - 9:00 mid-August through September. All times are Mountain Time.
Mount Rushmore's Extremely Racist History
We cannot undo America&aposs sordid history, but we can at least take down the monuments glorifying it. In the wake of the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, confederate monuments are coming down all over the country. Protesters in Durham, North Carolina toppled a statue put up by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1924. The mayor of Baltimore had the city&aposs Confederate statues removed under the cloak of night. And yesterday, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called for the 90 foot bas relief sculpture of three Confederate generals to be blasted off the face of Stone Mountain.
"It is 2017, and now is the time for us to have a conversation about removing the last vestiges of that type of hatred and that type of vitriol toward minority communities in Georgia," Abrams told local news.
In response to calls like Adams&apos, right-wing sites began rhetorically asking, What&aposs next, blowing up Mount Rushmore? But given the racist history that both Stone Mountain and Mount Rushmore share, is there something more to that question than alarmism alone?
Let&aposs start on a minor note: Mount Rushmore isn&apost even finished. The monument was originally intended to show four presidents—Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lincoln𠅏rom the waist up, as well as a large representation of the Louisiana Purchase, giant facsimiles of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and a secret room behind Lincoln&aposs head. But construction stopped in 1941, shortly after the original sculptor&aposs death, and as it stands today, Lincoln is still missing an ear. The rocks lying below the carving? Those aren&apost naturally occurring that&aposs the rubble from rock blown away with dynamite.
Much more importantly, Mount Rushmore is only monumental in its hubris and deeply rooted racism. Countless comics, films, and television shows have depicted megalomaniacs carving their own faces into Mount Rushmore, while letting the original megalomania and racism slide. There is something so American about looking at the enormity of nature𠅊t millions-of-years-old rock𠅊nd thinking, "You know what this needs? White guys."
Mount Rushmore and Georgia&aposs Stone Mountain—whose officials denied a request to Ku Klux Klan members to burn a cross there on Monday— share a common past: Both are built on land seized illegally from Indigenous peoples, and both were devised by the same racist artist: Gutzon Borglum. Borglum believed that a country as great as America required its own uniquely American art. "[A]rt in America should be American, drawn from American sources, memorializing American achievement," he wrote in a 1908 article in The World&aposs Work.
Borglum was first contacted by United Daughters of the Confederacy member Helen Plane to carve a 70-foot Robert E. Lee on Stone Mountain. Plane wanted Lee to be surrounded by KKK because she believed the KKK had "saved us from Negro domination and carpetbag rule," as she wrote to Borglum in 1915. Borglum&aposs only objection to her plan was that 70 feet wasn&apost nearly big enough to honor Lee properly. He told her it would look like "a postage stamp on the side of a barn." The final design was 20 feet taller, and depicted Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson riding on horseback. Now it looks more like a piece of legal-size paper on the side of a barn. Or like a trio of racists on the side of a mountain.
As construction began, Borglum aligned himself with the Klan, particularly with Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson. The two exchanged letters about Nordic moral superiority. (Stephenson would later be convicted of the rape and murder of Madge Oberholtzer.) However, internal squabbling in the Klan led to Borglum being booted from the Stone Mountain project. Subsequently, he destroyed all his models of the monument. Borglum also wasn&apost a fan of his replacement, Henry Augustus Lukeman. "Every able man in America refused it, and thank God, every Christian. They got a Jew," he said.
It was after this that Borglum was contacted by Doane Robinson, the state historian of South Dakota. Robinson wanted to create a tourist attraction that would pull yokels off the highway. He wanted to carve full statues of icons of the American West out of the Needles, a geological wonder (and a site sacred to the Sioux Nation) in the Black Hills. But the granite of the Needles was poor, so the sculpture site was relocated to the mountain that had only been known as Mount Rushmore for 40 of its two billion years of existence.
The Black Hills region was designated "unfit for civilization," and "Permanent Indian Country" in the 1850s. But when General Custer surveyed the area and reported that his men had discovered gold, white people came running. President Grant secretly ordered the army not to protect the native residents, and bounty hunters began collected up to $300 per Indian killed. The Sioux were forcibly evicted from their land, and the mountain formerly known as Six Grandfathers was named after the first white man to express interest in it. In 1884, New York City lawyer Charles E. Rushmore asked his guide what Six Grandfathers was called. His guide replied, "Never had a name, but from now on we&aposll call it Rushmore."
Six Grandfathers was sacred to the Lakota Sioux. The mountain was named after the ancestral spirits who came to Lakota medicine man Black Elk in a vision, and any construction on that land would have been an insult.
Borglum picked his four presidents based on their role in Manifest Destiny. Robinson had originally wanted giant statues of Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud, and Custer. But Borglum felt that only American presidents were worthy of looming over the plains of South Dakota like four Galactuses. Specifically, he wanted four men who he felt were instrumental in expanding and preserving the boundaries of America: Washington for getting things started, Jefferson for the Louisiana Purchase, Roosevelt for the Panama Canal, and Lincoln for preserving the Union.
Of course, the US government has a long history of violating treaties with Indigenous populations. But the Black HIlls are special insofar as the Supreme Court actually agreed that the land was taken illegally in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians. The Court ruled in 1980 that the US owed the Sioux Nation the 1877 price for the land, along with 100 years of interest. The Sioux rejected the cash settlement because they still want the land back.
In truth, it&aposs not my place as an American to say what should happen to Six Grandfathers. It&aposs not our sacred land to destroy because it was never ours to build upon.
But Stone Mountain has got to go.
ORIGINAL REPORTING ON EVERYTHING THAT MATTERS IN YOUR INBOX.
By signing up to the VICE newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from VICE that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.
America's Shrine of Democracy, Mount Rushmore National Memorial features the 60-foot faces of four great American presidents who represent the birth, growth, development and preservation of this country. Open year-round and located near hotels, the park includes a half-mile walking trail, museum, gift shop and dining room.
Note for 2021: the first phase of construction at Mount Rushmore National Memorial is almost complete. The Avenue of Flags, Grand View Terrace and Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center are all open to the public. Visitors will find some work on one of the visitor center elevators is continuing. The second phase of the project has begun. This phase involves replacement of the walkway from the Avenue of Flags to the parking facility. It does not limit access to the park.
Below you’ll find more trip planning tools & frequently asked visitor questions to help you plan your next great adventure to Mount Rushmore National Memorial!
Learn more about the carver's vision. Discover park history in the Information Center.
Explore the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage at the Borglum View Terrace.
The ceremony is held nightly throughout the summer and is a uniquely inspirational experience.
Become an official Junior Ranger when you participate in either the paper or digital version of the Junior Ranger Program.
Rent a multimedia hand-held photo/video tour or an audio tour wand to learn even more about the sculpture and its story.
Take advantage of the immense knowledge of the Memorial's park rangers when you join a ranger walk or talk.
Enjoy a scoop of Thomas Jefferson ice cream from the Carver's Cafe - based on the first written recipe for ice cream in the United States.
Take a picture of the sculpture from various unique angles, like the Carver's Cafe, Borglum View Terrace and the Sculptor's Studio.
Hunt for a treasure in the gift shop that will forever remind you of your Mount Rushmore experience.
Find a book or memento at the Mount Rushmore Bookstore in the Information Center or Sculptor's Studio.
The History of Mount Rushmore
Sculptor Gutzon Borglum led 400 workers in curving the sculptures from 1927 to 1941. Although Borglum designed the sculptures, the idea of carving the portraits of famous people on the hill was conceived by Doane Robinson. The southeast face of Mount Rushmore was chosen as the site because it receives maximum sun exposure. Robinson suggested that the sculptures should feature the heroes of American West such as Lewis and Clark, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Red Cloud but Borglum decided that the monument would have more appeal if it represented the portraits of presidents. The initial design was meant to portray the four presidents from the waistline to the head, but lack of funding terminated the project after the completion of the heads. Gutzon Borglum Died in March 1941 before the scriptures could be unveiled. His son took over the project until its completion.
75 SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT MOUNT RUSHMORE
Western South Dakota is home to incredible sights like the Badlands and the Needles of the Black Hills, but nothing “sticks out” quite like Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This giant monument is celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2016. In honor of this milestone, here are 75 facts about the sculpture that hav captured the imaginations of so many.
1. The idea of creating a sculpture in the Black Hills was dreamed up in 1923 by South Dakota historian Doane Robinson. He wanted to find a way to attract tourists to the state.
2. It worked. Mount Rushmore is now visited by nearly 3 million people annually.
3. Robinson initially wanted to sculpt with the likenesses of Western heroes like Oglala Lakota leader Red Cloud, explorers Lewis and Clark, and Buffalo Bill Cody into the nearby stone pinnacles known as the Needles.
4. Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum was enlisted to help with the project. At the time, he was working on the massive carving at Stone Mountain in Georgia, but by his own account said the model was flawed and the monument wouldn’t stand the test of time. He was looking for a way out when South Dakota called.
5. Borglum, a good friend of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, dreamed of something bigger than the Needles. He wanted something that would draw people from around the world. He wanted to carve a mountain.
6. Besides, the Needles site was deemed too narrow for sculpting, and the mountain had better exposure to the sun.
7. Borglum and his son, Lincoln, thought the monument should have a national focus and decided that four presidents should be carved.
8. The presidents were chosen for their significant contribution to the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the country.
9. George Washington (1789 – 1797) was chosen because he was our nation’s founding father.
10. Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was chosen to represent expansion, because he was the president who signed the Louisiana Purchase and authored the Declaration of Independence.
11. Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) was chosen because he represented conservation and the industrial blossoming of the nation.
12. Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) was chosen because he led the country through the Civil War and believed in preserving the nation at any cost.
The sculptor’s four faces
During the 1920s, a historian in South Dakota, Doane Robinson, was mulling ideas for a monument that would draw tourists to his state.
Mr. Robinson originally envisioned a sculpture memorializing figures of the American West, such as the explorers Lewis and Clark or the Oglala Lakota leader Red Cloud. But the sculptor who was ultimately chosen for the project, Gutzon Borglum, settled on a concept to pay tribute to four former commanders in chief.
“He picked four presidents he thought represented major accomplishments in the American story,” said Gene A. Smith, a professor of U.S. history at Texas Christian University.
Before he was recruited to create Mount Rushmore, Mr. Borglum had been involved with another project: an enormous bas-relief at Stone Mountain in Georgia that memorialized Confederate leaders.
It was eventually completed without him, but Mr. Borglum formed strong bonds with leaders of the Ku Klux Klan and participated in their meetings, in part to secure funding for the Stone Mountain project. He also espoused white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideas, according to excerpts from his letters included in “Great White Fathers,” a book by the writer John Taliaferro about the history of Mount Rushmore.
After the sculpting of the Black Hills monument began in 1927, a women’s rights advocate named Rose Arnold Powell fought to include a likeness of the suffragist Susan B. Anthony. She enlisted the help of a first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, who wrote to Mr. Borglum in support of the idea in 1936. He opposed it, and a congressional bill to add Anthony’s face stalled after the House Appropriations Committee said funding would be limited to the work already in progress.
Doane Robinson of the South Dakota Historical Society wanted a monument to be built in South Dakota in order to help the economy of the state by attracting tourism. In 1923, he proposed that this monument should be built from the granite cliffs in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Senator Peter Norbeck of South Dakota approved the proposal, and federal funding helped the project. Robinson asked architect and sculptor Gutzon Borglum to sculpt and design the monument. Borglum decided to use Mount Rushmore for the sculpture, since it seemed to be the easiest and most stable of the cliffs to work on. 
Having decided on the location of the sculpture, Borglum decided to make the monument of four presidents of the United States. He chose the two most famous presidents in American history, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. He chose Thomas Jefferson because Jefferson nearly doubled the size of the United States in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase (which included the land that became South Dakota). The last president Borglum chose was Theodore Roosevelt, suggested by President Calvin Coolidge (who insisted that at least there be two Republicans and at least one Democrat represented)  because of Theodore Roosevelt's introduction of the National Park Service.
Borglums original design was a sculpture of each president intended to go down to their waists, but time constraints and funding only provided for their heads.  Ivan Houser, father of John Sherrill Houser, was assistant sculptor to Gutzon Borglum during the early years of carving he began working with Borglum shortly after the inception of the monument and was with Borglum for a total of seven years. When Houser left Gutzon to devote his talents to his own work, Borglum's son, Lincoln Borglum, became assistant sculptor.
A few hundred workers, most of whom were miners, sculptors, or rock climbers, used dynamite, jackhammers, and chisels to remove material from the mountain. A stairway was constructed to the top of the mountain, where ropes were fixed. Workers were supported by harnesses attached to the ropes.
The irises of the eyes were sculpted as holes. A cube of granite was left in each to represent the reflection highlight thereby making the appearance of the eyes more realistic.
Construction began on October 4, 1927. In 1935, Borglum appointed Italian immigrant Luigi Del Bianco as chief carver. 
George Washington's head was started first. Due to the economic instability of the United States caused by the Great Depression, it was completed in seven years, and dedicated to the public on Independence Day 1934. A large American flag was placed over Washington's head before it was revealed, and this became a tradition for each of the presidents' heads.
Thomas Jefferson's head was started next, to the right of Washington. Before the head was complete, Borglum requested that be blasted off due to poor rock quality. Jefferson's head was restarted on Washington's left.  Jefferson's head was dedicated in 1936.
Abraham Lincoln's head was the most challenging because of his beard, but his head was completed on the far right of the cliff. Lincoln's face was finally dedicated on September 17, 1937, which was the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States in 1787.
While Theodore Roosevelt's head was being constructed, accommodations for tourists were being built, including plumbing, lighting, and a visitor center. Not finding suitable rock, the sculptors cut farther back into the mountain, causing concerns about how far they were cutting. Roosevelt's head was dedicated on July 2, 1939.
Due to unforeseen vulnerabilities in the granite, Lincoln and Jefferson were relocated from the positions in Borglum's original design. Lincoln was relocated to the area where Borglum intended to include an 80-by-100-foot inscription in the shape of the Louisiana Purchase.
To replace the inscription, Borglum conceived another grand addition to the monument of similar proportions: the Hall of Records. The Hall of Records was to include a grand entrance to an 80-by-100-foot vault carved directly into the granite face of the small canyon behind Lincoln's head. Borglum imagined 800 granite steps leading from his studio to the entrance of the Hall.
In 1938, Borglum and his crew began to carve this grand hall, where he envisaged the original Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution should eventually be stored. But a combination of unexpectedly hard granite, looming war in Europe, and lack of funding conspired against Borglum's last dream, though his plans became more elaborate as his team rushed to complete this work. They had reached 70 feet into the granite by March 1941, when Borglum unexpectedly died. The monument was deemed complete and all work shut down on October 31 of the same year. Though Borglum's children tried over the years to renew interest in their father's last dream, it was not until 1998 that the National Park System, together with the Borglum Family, put "finishing touches" on the Hall of Records. A titanium vault was installed in the granite floor of the unfinished hall, and filled with 16 porcelain enamel panels that include the United States Constitution and other important historical documents. The Hall of Records entrance can be seen from west-facing aerial photographs of the monument.  
The Presidential Trail, a walking trail and boardwalk, starts at Grandview Terrace and travels through the forests to the sculptor's studio, now a museum with information about the construction of the monument and the tools used by workers. 
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a large-scale mountain sculpture by artist Gutzon Borglum. The figures of America's most prominent U.S. presidents--George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt—represent 150 years of American history.
The Memorial is located near Keystone in the Black Hills of South Dakota, roughly 30 miles from Rapid City.
Each year, approximately three million tourists from all over the world visit Mount Rushmore to experience this patriotic site. Today, the wonder of the mountain reverberates through every visitor. The four "great faces" of the presidents tower 5,725 feet above sea level and are scaled to men who would stand 465 feet tall.
There are many amenities at the site including the Mount Rushmore Audio Tour, Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center & Museum, the Presidential Trail, Youth Exploration Area, Sculptor’s Studio, a parking garage with R.V. parking, pet exercise areas, , the Carvers Café, Memorial Ice Cream Shop, Gift Shop and the Mount Rushmore Bookstores.
For health and safety measures being taken by the Mount Rushmore concessionaire, please visit https://www.mtrushmorenationalmemorial.com/health-and-safety.
Here Are The Top 10 Things You Need To Do At Mount Rushmore
If you are one of the roughly 2.5 million people traveling from around the world to experience the wonder of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, be sure to add these top ten things to see and do to your list.
The concept of Mount Rushmore dates back to 1923 when South Dakota State Historian Doane Robinson who had the original idea for Mount Rushmore. Known as the “Father of Mount Rushmore,” Robinson’s motivation was to create a monumental attraction in the Black Hills of South Dakota that would bring tourists from all over the country. His original idea was of a large-scale sculpture of Indian leaders and key early American explorers who helped discover the frontier.
When he reached out to artist Gutzon Borglum in 1924, it was Borglum’s idea to honor four great presidents instrumental in America’s early existence, along with a brief history of the country on an adjoining tablet. Borglum also envisioned his work as being the perfect place to store and preserve key documents and early-American artifacts, like the Declaration of Independence, in a Hall of Records to be built behind the faces.
The original plan was to carve in granite pillars known as the Needles. However, Borglum realized that the eroded Needles were too thin to support sculpting. He chose Mount Rushmore (named in 1885 for New York lawyer Charles Rushmore) because it had suitable stone for carving and faced southeast with maximum exposure to the sun. Borglum said upon seeing Mount Rushmore, "America will march along that skyline."
With a site and plans made, funding for the project was the last mountain to climb. Through the efforts of Robinson, Senator Peter Norbeck, Congressman William Williamson and local businessman John Boland, 85% of the project was funded by Congress. The total cost of the project was $989,992.32.
Work officially began on Mount Rushmore on October 4, 1927, and it took just under three years to finish George Washington’s face, which was dedicated on July 4, 1930. Thomas Jefferson was the next completed, with a dedication on August 30, 1939. The Abraham Lincoln figure was dedicated on September 17, 1937, and the Teddy Roosevelt figure was dedicated was on July 2, 1939.
Unfortunately, Gutzon Borglum died on March 6, 1941, and Gutzon’s son, Lincoln Borglum, finished supervising work on the mountain until October 31, 1941.