Mount Rushmore National Memorial is one of America's most famous landmarks both domestically and abroad. It has been featured in movies like North by Northwest and Team America. It is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota and was the project of the sculptor Gutzon Borglum. This was a Great Depression-era project, and while it is protected and preserved as it is, it is actually an incomplete monument as the project ran out of funding. The four presidents are mean to represent the progress of the nation and its approx. 150 years of history to that point (the start of the project is almost 100 years ago now).


Background Of The Memorial

Gutzon Borglum designed the sculpture and oversaw it from 1927 to 1941 - so construction ceased during World War Two never to restart. The Presidents depicted are:

  • George Washington: First President and War Of Independence Hero, Lived 1732-1799
  • Thomas Jefferson: Lives 1743-1826, Promoted Westward Expansion And Oversaw The Lousiana Purchase
  • Theodore Roosevelt: Lived 1858-1919 Was Vice President But Took Over Presidency After The Assassination Of McKinley. He Was 42 Years Old And Remains The Youngest US President. Championed Breaking Of Trusts, Regulation Of Railroads, Pure Food And Drugs As Well As Conservation Establishing National Parks, Forest And Momunments
  • Abraham Lincoln: Abolitionist, Assassinated in Office, Oversaw The Civil War; Lived 1809-1865

The sculptures of these presidents are large and their heads alone are some 60 feet. The presidents were selected to represent the course of the American nation with the country's birth, growth, development, preservation in respective order.

Mount Rushmore: The Facts

  • Built: 1927-1941
  • Size Of The Heads: 60-Feet
  • Size Of The Park: 2 Square Miles
  • Elevation Above Sea Level: 5.725

At first, there was some controversy about where to build the sculpture (and controversy still surrounds the monument today). At first, it was suggested that Gutzon Borglum sculpt the Needles in South Dakota. This idea was turned down partly because it was originally part of the Great Sioux Reservation and the Sioux or Lakota sharply opposite the project (to them the Black Hills are sacred). The other dissuading factor was the poor quality of the granite. Gutzon Borglum and the local tribal representatives were able to compromise and agree to Mount Rushmore.

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  • Admission Fees: There Are No Admission Fees To Visit The Memorial
  • Parking Fees: Cars, Motorcycles, And RVs $10 Per Vehicle
  • Payment Method: Cash Or Most Credit Cards
  • Overnight Parking: Not Permitted Within The Memorial

One extra advantage of Mount Rushmore is that it faces southeast and so enjoys extensive direct sunlight. There was also a suggestion to expand the monument to include more than just the presidents and include the American West heroes like Lewis and Clark. Not only that but also include their famous guide, Sacagawea. In addition, it was suggested to include Lakota (Sioux) chiefs Red Cloud and Crazy Horse as well as somewhat confusingly Buffalo Bill Cody. But Gutzon Borglum thought that the presidents would have broader appeal.

  • Days Open: 364 Days (Closed Xmas Day)
  • Parking Hours: 5.00 am to 11.00 pm
  • Information Center: 9.00am to 9.00am
  • Sculptor's Studio: 8.00am to 8.00pm
  • Gift Shop: 9.00am to 10.30pm

Crazy Horse Memorial

Side note, just 17 miles away is an even larger sculpture of Crazy Horse under construction and called the Crazy Horse Memorial. This sculpture if ever completed will dwarf the presidents at Mount Rushmore. The memorial has been underway since 1948 and if it is completed will be the world's second-tallest statue - secondly only to the Statue of Unity in India. Despite being in the works for the last 73 years the project has a long way to go with only parts of the head completed. If completed it will show much of Crazy Horse's body and horse.

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The Sculptures Of Rushmore And Progress

Gutzon Borglum died in 1941 and his son, Lincoln, took over the project. However, he was unable to complete the project as funding ran out and he was unable to secure the necessary funds. Consequently in October of that year construction stalled and the monument has been left unchanged with only the heads of the presidents completed. It was meant to extend down to their waists.

  • 8 Number Of Visitors: 2 Million Visitors Yearly

Construction Of The Monument

Over the course of the project around 400 workers sculpted the monument. The mountain was carved with dynamite in a process called "honeycombing".  A total of 450,000 short tons of rock were blasted off the mountain.

  • Fun Fact: Thomas Jefferson Was Meant To Be At The Right Of Washington, But During Construction It Was Found That The Rock Was Unsuitable

The monument was brought under the National Park Service in 1933 during the early stages of construction.

  • 1934: Washington's Face Dedicated
  • 1936: Thomas Jefferson's Face Dedicated
  • 1937: Abraham Lincoln's Face Dedicated
  • 1939: Theodore Roosevelt's Face Dedicated

In 1937 a bill was introduced by Congress to add Susan B. Anthony to the monument. She was a civil rights leader, but a rider was also passed requiring federal funds to only finish the heads that had already been started and so that part foundered.

In short, this is a fascinating monument with more than meets the eye.

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