On October 4, 1927, work began on the monument at Mount Rushmore dedicated to four of America’s greatest presidents. See if you can blast your way through these trivia questions about the construction of this colossal monument to America and its history.
Why Was Mount Rushmore Built?
The state historian for South Dakota, Doane Robinson, was thinking of ways to increase tourism to the state and came up with the idea to carve figures of western heroes to attract those tourists. The heroes he originally had in mind included Lewis and Clark, Buffalo Bill Cody and Sacajawea.
The area Robinson proposed to have the monuments carved wasn’t at the present location of Mount Rushmore but in an area known as the Needles, located in the Black Hills near the town of Custer. In this area, tall rock pillars stand, and it was an area once popular with climbers. Robinson contacted a sculptor who was working in Georgia about doing the giant sculpture that he envisioned. Fortunately, the sculptor had been fired from the job he was working on in Georgia and was free to take the commission.
Who Was the Sculptor Who Created the Monument?
Gutzon Borglum was the son of Danish immigrants who had reached fame by carving the head of Abraham Lincoln so well that Lincoln’s son reportedly said upon seeing it, "I never expected to see father again." Contracted by the Daughters of the Confederacy in Georgia, he was working at Stone Mountain, carving the figures of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis into a monument. A disagreement between the artist and businessmen funding the project ended in his dismissal.
Borglum came to South Dakota in 1824. The Needles he found unsuitable for the sculptures but was pleased when he saw Mount Rushmore and decided this would be the perfect spot for the sculptures. He objected to the figures that the state historian suggested in addition, so it was decided that the figures would be of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Borglum did not live to see the end of the project. He died in 1941, and it was his son, Lincoln, who completed the massive sculptures.
Were the Presidents’ Heads Carved at the Same Time? Washington’s was completed first. It took seven years because of the Great Depression. The dedication of the first sculpture took place on Independence Day in 1934. Jefferson’s went more quickly, although the original sculpture of Jefferson was to the right of Washington. The rockface there wasn’t of a quality good enough to continue, and Jefferson’s head ended up being carved to the left of Washington. It was completed and dedicated in 1936. The head of Abraham Lincoln was dedicated in 1937 and the sculpture of Teddy Roosevelt was dedicated in 1939.
What Dream of the Sculptor Was Completed in 1998? It had been Borglum’s idea to carve out a great hall in the side of the mountain to store the country’s important historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. However, he died before the project was completed. Between 1938 and 1939, a 70-foot-long tunnel was blasted out to build the hall. In 1998, a titanium vault with a granite cover was placed in the floor of the entryway to the uncompleted hall. In it are 16 panels made of porcelain enamel. The panels include a history of the construction of the monument at Mount Rushmore and short history of the country.