Each man possessed great skills and leadership of the brand our nation needed for the times. Today millions of visitors come to see Mount Rushmore and gain inspiration from these four great men.
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South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson conceived the idea in 1923 to attract more people to the Black Hills of South Dakota with colossal carvings of western heroes. Robinson gained support from major players in South Dakota and Washington DC with the help of Senator Peter Norbeck and Congressman William Williamson. Congress passed legislation authorizing the mountain carving in Black Hills National Forest.
After trying to get another sculptor to do the work, Robinson contacted Gutzon Borglum. Borglum, who agreed to come out to the Black Hills in 1924 to look at the area and see if the carving was possible. When Borglum saw Mount Rushmore, he pointed to it and said, "America will march along that skyline."
Borglum liked Mount Rushmore because it faced southeast which meant it would receive good light throughout most of the day. It was the highest peak in the immediate vicinity, and the granite was very resistant, eroding one inch every 10,000 years. Robinson and Borglum selected the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to be carved into the stone.
Once they had a carving plan and a location was set, the work could begin. Borglum created a plaster model from which measurements were taken using the pointing system. On October 4, 1927 the first actual work of carving began.
Work began on Mount Rushmore with George Washington. Thomas Jefferson was started on Washington's right. After about two years of working on Jefferson, the granite was found to be badly cracked and Jefferson had to be blasted off the mountain. He was started again on the left side of Washington.
Washington's face was dedicated on July 4, 1934. Borglum was a genius at creating interest and excitement in his mountain carving. Local women from Rapid City made a 39 by 70 foot flag to cover the face before it was revealed to the public. Thomas Jefferson was dedicated in 1936 with President Franklin Roosevelt attending the dedication. Franklin Roosevelt had no intention of speaking at the dedication but was inspired by what he saw, and gave a brief speech.
"...I had seen the photographs, I had seen the drawings, and I had talked with those who are responsible for this great work, and yet I had no conception, until about ten minutes ago, not only of its magnitude, but also its permanent beauty and importance."
Abraham Lincoln was dedicated on September 17, 1937, the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. In 1939, the same year modern plumbing and night lighting was installed at the memorial, Theodore Roosevelt┐s figure was dedicated.
For two more years the work continued on the mountain. Details and finishing touches were made. In March of 1941 Borglum died suddenly of an embolism. His son, Lincoln, took over the project for the next seven months, until funding ran out. The carving of Mount Rushmore was shut down and the presidential faces were complete as they stood.
Yet during these tumultuous years of the nation┐s life the imposing granite face of Mount Rushmore had been unimaginably transformed into the likeness of four of our nation's greatest presidents. What had seemed almost impossible had been made a reality.
If you are interested in participating in a Distance Learning program you can look up programs on the Digital Dakota Network website. You can also click on the program titles or dates below to view descriptions and contact information for Mount Rushmore's programs.
WRAPPED UP IN THE MEANINGS OF OUR FLAG: Students will grasp how the meanings of our national colors have evolved with our country, and also learn the meanings of the symbols found within our state flag. There will be a second program scheduled for March 25, 2004.
EVERYONE IS AN INVENTOR: New ideas are made everyday, students will come up with some new ideas of their own. Student learn about the invention process and develop their own inventions to seal the cracks on Mount Rushmore. They will also be reviewed by their peers to see if they will receive a patent for their invention. This program is recommended for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. This program will broadcast again on March 7, 2005.
Badlands National Park, 85 miles.
Devils Tower National Monument, 130 miles.
Jewel Cave National Monument, 35 miles.
Wind Cave National Park, 40 miles.
Yellowstone National Park, 460 miles.