Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore Page
Mount Rushmore
In the Black Hills of South Dakota

Posted Monday November 8th 2021


ount Rushmore National Memorial is a large-scale mountain sculpture by artist Gutzon Borglum. The figures of America's most prominent U.S. presidents represent 150 years of American history
  • George Washington
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt

The Memorial is located near Keystone in the Black Hills of South Dakota, roughly 30 miles from Rapid City.

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
Each year, approximately three million tourists from all over the world visit Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore

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. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

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.

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 Crazy Horse's famous defeat of General Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876), which federal troops eventually crushed in a brutal massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890.

Mount Rushmore was named after 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).

Early 1920s:
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.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum:
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.

Stone Mountain Georgia
Stone Mountain Georgia

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.

Calvin Coolidge Vacation Area:
During a second visit to the Black Hills in August 1925, Borglum identified Mount Rushmore as the desired site of the sculpture. 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.

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.

Heads Completed one at a time:
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.

In 1959, Mount Rushmore was the site of a climactic chase scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Cary Grant film "North by Northwest." (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.)

Mount Rushmore is a colossal sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore:
  • It's in the Black Hills near Keystone, South Dakota

  • Sculptor Gutzon Borglum created the sculpture's design and oversaw the project's execution from 1927 to 1941 with the help of his son, Lincoln Borglum
  • The sculpture features the 60-foot heads of four presidents who were chosen to represent the nation's birth, growth, development, and preservation, respectively:
    • George Washington (1732–1799)
    • Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
    • Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919)
    • Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)
  • The memorial park covers 1,278 acres (2.00 sq mi)
  • The actual mountain has an elevation of 5,725 feet above sea level
  • South Dakota historian Doane Robinson is credited with conceiving the idea of carving the likenesses of noted figures into the mountains of the Black Hills of South Dakota in order to promote tourism in the region

His initial idea was to sculpt the Needles; however, Gutzon Borglum rejected the Needles because of the poor quality of the granite and strong opposition from the Lakota (Sioux), who consider the Black Hills to be sacred ground. The Black Hills was originally included in the Great Sioux Reservation. The United States broke up the territory after gold was discovered in the Black Hills. Borglum and tribal representatives settled on Mount Rushmore, which also has the advantage of facing southeast for maximum sun exposure.

Historian Robinson wanted it to feature American West heroes, such as:
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Their expedition guide Sacagawea
  • Oglala Lakota chief Red Cloud
  • Buffalo Bill Cody
  • Oglala Lakota chief Crazy Horse
Sculptor Borglum believed that the sculpture should have broader appeal and chose the four presidents.

  • Peter Norbeck, U.S. senator from South Dakota, sponsored the project and secured federal funding
  • Construction began in 1927; the presidents' faces were completed between 1934 and 1939.

After Gutzon Borglum died in March 1941, his son Lincoln took over as leader of the construction project

  • Each president was originally to be depicted from head to waist, but lack of funding forced construction to end on October 31, 1941

Sometimes referred to as the "Shrine of Democracy", Mount Rushmore attracts more than two million visitors annually.

Mount Rushmore was known to the Lakota Sioux as "The Six Grandfathers" or "Cougar Mountain" but American settlers knew it variously as Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain and Keystone Cliffs. As Six Grandfathers, the mountain was on the route that Lakota leader Black Elk took in a spiritual journey that culminated at Black Elk Peak. Following a series of military campaigns from 1876 to 1878, the United States asserted control over the area, a claim that is still disputed on the basis of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.

Wealthy investor Charles E. Rushmore began visiting the area regularly on prospecting and hunting trips. He repeatedly joked with colleagues about naming the mountain after himself. The United States Board of Geographic Names officially recognized the name "Mount Rushmore" in June 1930

Crazy Horse Memorial
Nearby: is the Crazy Horse Memorial:
The monument is under construction. It's being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, between Custer and Hill City, roughly 17 miles from Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore