Every year, over three million visitors flock to South Dakota to see a special granite mountain called Mount Rushmore. Located in the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore National Memorial boasts of carvings of the faces of four past US presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Did you know that it took 14 years to build this? Carving started out in 1927 and was finally completed in October 31, 1941. More than 350 people helped in making these 60 foot high carvings!
The creation of Mount Rushmore was the brainchild of Jonah LeRoy “Doane” Robinson, a state historian of South Dakota. Known as the “Father of Mount Rushmore”, Robinson’s main goal was to make an attraction that would draw plenty of visitors to his state. He then made contact with a sculptor called Gutzon Borglum during 1924 and 1925. It was Borglum who initiated the idea that Mount Rushmore was a perfect location to make a grand monument. Backed up by Borglum’s words, Robinson worked with influential people like President Calvin Coolidge, Senator Peter Norbeck, Congressman William Williamson and John Boland to gain support in Congress and for the funding to proceed. Their efforts were successful as Congress agreed to give $250,000 as funding for the project and even created the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission.
Before sculptor Gutzon Borglum started carving work on Mount Rushmore in 1927, he first created a model of the past four presidents on a 1-to-12 inch scale. An inch on the model represented a foot on the cliff. In transferring the measurements, the workers had to determine where the top of the head would be so that an apparatus similar to a large protractor can track down the corresponding points on the cliff. The team quickly determined the amount of rocks to remove by substituting feet to inches.
It is interesting to note that 90% of the mountain was carved by dynamite. The use of dynamite made it easier to remove large pieces of rocks. Also, drillers used air-powered tools to do the process of “honeycombing”, which is drilling closely spaced holes to exacting depths. Using chisels and hammers, the rock between the holes was broken away. A pneumatic drill was used for the final process called “bumping” wherein a special bit also done to make the finished surface as smooth as a concrete sidewalk.
The faces of the presidents were done individually. The first to be carved was the face of George Washington in 1930. The second face that was carved was Thomas Jefferson in 1936. It was followed by the face of Abraham Lincoln in 1937. The last face to be carved was of Theodore Roosevelt in 1939. After Gutzon Borglum’s death, his son, Lincoln, devoted seven months in refining the monument. The construction stopped on October 31, 1941 where the historic monument was finally completed for all to see.
Today, Mount Rushmore does not only celebrate the wonderful craftsmanship of Gutzon Borglum and his team of workers. It also serves to immortalize the heroes of American history. Each of the faces in the monument symbolizes something. George Washington represented the struggle for independence of America. Thomas Jefferson represented the idea of democracy as the government by the people. Abraham Lincoln represented the ideas on equality and the permanent union of the states. Lastly, Theodore Roosevelt represented the 20th century role of the United States in world affairs. These faces look down from high above in the mountain to remind everyone that the impossible can be possible.
Visitors can also learn history while marveling at the great structure of Mount Rushmore! There are various educational tours that one can join. There is a Ranger Walk wherein you will walk with a park ranger for 30 minutes while he highlights the natural and cultural history of Mount Rushmore along with the Black Hills. There is also a Sculptor’s Studio Talk where you can learn about the different tools and techniques used in the carving of this mountain sculpture. It even includes demonstrations of the tools and stories from workers. In the evening, one can also join a program wherein the focus is on the presidents, patriotism and the history of the nation. Starting with a ranger talk, the evening program also presents a film called Freedom: America’s Lasting Legacy. There are also new tours like exploring the customs and traditions of local American Indian communities and a self audio tour where you can hear the story of Mount Rushmore while exploring the route around the park. These educational tours matched with the scenic beauty of Mount Rushmore makes a vacation to this place truly an amazing experience!
To learn more about Mount Rushmore, refer to the following links:
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial: The official website of Mount Rushmore. Includes lots of information about the park and different resources for teachers and kids.
- Images of Mount Rushmore: A site where you can get up close with Mount Rushmore through zooming in the images provided.
- Giant Statues in South Dakota’s Hills: Includes the history with pictures and other information about Mount Rushmore.
- Facts about Mount Rushmore: Includes different interesting facts about Mount Rushmore.
- The World’s Largest Sculpture: A comprehensive chemistry lesson plan based on Mount Rushmore that includes resources and an activity
- The Presidents of Mount Rushmore: A collection of PDF lesson plans.
- Welcome to Mount Rushmore!: Includes a brief history of Mount Rushmore and fun facts about it.
- Mount Rushmore’s Legacy: Explains how the four presidents featured in Mount Rushmore changed the history of the United States of America.
- Visit South Dakota: A site promoting tourism in South Dakota.
- Gutzon Borglum: Includes a brief biography of the sculptor of Mount Rushmore.
- How to Locate Mount Rushmore: A useful guide in locating Mount Rushmore.
- Mount Rushmore: A PDF file with text about Mount Rushmore complemented with multiple choice type questions at the end.
- Mount Rushmore Memorial Park: Includes information about the history and park services in Mount Rushmore.
- Calvin Coolidge’s Opening Address: An inspiring speech by former president Calvin Coolidge during the opening of Mount Rushmore
- South Dakota Legislative Manual: A PDF file that includes detailed information of the Mount Rushmore state.
- Zoom in on America: A PDF file that is a guide on the different tourist spots in America headlined by Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
- Teacher’s Guide: Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln: A PDF comprehensive guide about the three presidents featured in Mount Rushmore.
- Memorializing a Mountain Man: A detailed feature about Doane Robinson
- The Mount Rushmore Project: A project for students about Mount Rushmore.
- Fire, Forest History in Mount Rushmore National Memorial: A PDF file explaining the fire, forest history and ecological restoration in Mount Rushmore.
- Ben’s Guide to US Government: An easy to read guide by Ben about Mount Rushmore that is suited for readers of young ages
- Making Mount Rushmore: Includes the geology of the area with facts and figures.
- A Guide to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Includes information on activities you can do in the park and planning your visit.
- Rock n’ Roll Presidents on Mount Rushmore: A PDF lesson plan activity for young students to learn more about Mount Rushmore.
- Dynamite Presidents: An online trivia game about Mount Rushmore.
- Carving of Abraham Lincoln: An archived photo of how the face of Abraham Lincoln was carved in Mount Rushmore.
- Mount Rushmore Geologic Evaluation Report: A PDF file of a natural resource report of the geologic issues in Mount Rushmore.
- Mount Rushmore Park: Includes a brief history and pictures.
- Starry Night in Mount Rushmore: An interesting image captured by NASA featuring different constellations.
- Image Map of Mount Rushmore: Includes links to the biographies of the presidents featured in Mount Rushmore.
- The Immortal Presidents: Includes a link to brief description of the four presidents
- What an Accomplishment: A PDF file collection of lesson plans about South Dakota including Mount Rushmore.
- Mount Rushmore Golden Anniversary Coin: An image of the coin made to commemorate the anniversary of Mount Rushmore. It also includes a brief description.
- M is for Mount Rushmore: A PDF lesson plan about South Dakota
- Physical Geology Slides: Includes information about the granites in Mount Rushmore.
- The Next President on Mount Rushmore is..: A lesson plan that will take students on an in depth look of Mount Rushmore.
- Presidents in the Parks: A discussion of the different presidents of America that were commemorated with parks or other structures.
- Geology and Physiology of the Black Hills: Contains information about the Black Hills where Mount Rushmore is located.
- The Scale Factor of Mount Rushmore: A PDF math lesson plan involving Mount Rushmore.
- Two National Symbols: Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial: A PDF History Lesson Plan