Mount Rushmore is a national icon, a massive sculpture and the enduring image of South Dakota. Its also a dynamic and active place, where people work, others stop for a tour and some visit for a chance to celebrate America and its promise of freedom and independence.
The monument was carved from a mountain in the Black Hills by master sculptor Gutzon Borglum, his son Lincoln Borglum and their team of brave, dedicated workers. Work was launched in 1927 and continued until October 1941, six months after Gutzon Borglum died. He didnt live to see it completed, nor did his vision of the four presidents depicted from head to waist come to fruition. But Borglum succeeded in creating perhaps the most famous sculpture in American history.
The carved images of four presidents are on Mount Rushmore. The monument is dominated by the largest face on it, and the only one with parts of his chest and shoulders shown: George Washington. Next to him is his fellow Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, with Theodore Roosevelt, who explored the Black Hills and loved the area, tucked in the middle. At the right edge is Abraham Lincoln.
While there has been a lot of discussion of adding faces to Mount Rushmore, including womens rights leader Susan B. Anthony, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, officials insist no more faces will be placed on it.
Crazy Horse is still a work in progress and it is a work to behold. The massive carving will fill Thunderbird Mountain with a sculpture of Crazy Horse, the Lakota leader and warrior, on horseback, pointing out to his peoples lands.
Korczak Zió?kowski started the work and, in the 30 years since his death, his family has continued the effort at the site between Custer and Hill City, 17 miles from Mount Rushmore.
A few pertinent facts:
- Mount Rushmore is mostly granite.
- It is 5,725 feet above sea level.
- The memorial, which includes offices, tourism shops and a visitors center, covers 1,278.45 acres.
- The faces erode 1 inch every 10,000 years.
- The mountain was known as Six Grandfathers by the Lakota. Some American
- Indians are unhappy it was carved into a symbol of American leaders and it was occupied in a 1971 protest.
- It was named in honor of New York lawyer Charles E. Rushmore.
- About 400 workers were involved in carving the monument, some while dangling
- hundreds of feet in the air. While some were injured, none was killed.
- The faces are 60 feet high.
- A chamber behind the faces, originally intended as a Hall of Records, contains 16 porcelain panels that show copies of the Declaration of Independence, the
- Constitution, the history of the USA and biographies of the four presidents depicted.
- On average, about 2 million people a year visit Mount Rushmore.
- The monument is cleaned using water-pressure devices.
- The memorial is surrounded by Ponderosa pines. About 18 inches of rain falls on the area on average each year.