Welcome Back! We’ve now left Wyoming and we’re headed for South Dakota and the first of two national monuments that we’ll be visiting.
I’ve long been fascinated by people who have huge visions and how they go about making these visions come to life. Gutzon Borglum (1867 – 1941) is one of these people. After graduating high school, he opened his own art studio and gradually made a name for himself. But it wasn’t until 1888, when he did a portrait of General John C. Fremont, that he found fame and recognition. The General’s wife, Jesse, helped Mr. Borglum sell his work and later he went to Europe to continue his studies where he stayed until 1901.
He carved a bust of Abraham Lincoln and because of this piece of work, Borglum was contacted by the United Daughters of the Confederacy about doing one of Robert E. Lee on the side of Stone Mountain in Georgia. When he visited GA and looked up at Stone Mountain, he said, “Ladies, the head of Lee on the side of that mountain would look like a postage stamp on a barn door!” He then proceeded to design what he envisioned for the granite mountain…a large group picture that features not only Robert E. Lee, but also Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis on horseback followed by a column of soldiers. He was commissioned to carve the mountain, but after completing Lee’s head, he had a disagreement with the Stone Mountain Memorial Association and was fired. Another artist was hired to carve the mountain in Georgia.
He might have been fired before the work at Stone Mountain was completed, but because of his work in Georgia, he was contacted about carving western characters in the mountains of the Black Hills…to draw tourists to South Dakota. At the age of 57 he agreed to carve the mountain in South Dakota, but suggested carving persons that had national significance…such as Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln…since they represented the first 150 years of this nation’s birth, development and expansion. George Washington, because he guided the birth of our nation; Thomas Jefferson, because of his efforts in expanding America and his unwavering belief that all men were created equal; Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, “because he had fought for the rights of the working man,” and Abraham Lincoln because he “held the country together during its greatest trial.”
Ever wondered where the name of the monument came from…why it’s called Mount Rushmore? Charles E. Rushmore was the attorney from New York who was hired to secure the land and since the mountain didn’t have a name, he started calling it Mount Rushmore. Eventually, many years later, the name was made official.
Visitors arrive today and start the tour by walking through flags from all fifty states, then through granite columns that list each state and the date they joined the union. We rented headphones and listened to additional facts as we walked along.
There’s a museum filled with pictures of the process from start to finish and a short movie that tells how the men had to climb to work each day and how large sections had to be blasted out with dynamite…so many sections that they blasted twice a day…once in the morning and once in the afternoon. There are more tidbits of information than I have space to write, but I’ll give you a few facts about Washington’s face. His face is 60 feet long and his nose is 20 feet long. His eyes are 11 feet wide and the eye projections stick out 22 inches. Roosevelt’s mustache is 20 feet from tip to tip and Lincoln’s mole is 16 inches across. The museum also gave in-depth details about the process of keeping the carvings true to scale, the funding and the actual carving of the monument.
If the choice had been up to you, would you have chosen these four men to carve on the mountain…or would you have chosen differently? Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter since, as the saying goes, Mr. Borglum’s choice is already “carved in stone, ” and it is well worth seeing.
Hope you enjoyed this quick look at Mount Rushmore and I hope you join us next week for a visit to Yellowstone National Park…our last stop before heading home.
JUST LIKE THE PRIZE LAST WEEK FOR DEVIL’S TOWER, IF YOU LEAVE A COMMENT TODAY, YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED IN A DRAWING TO WIN A SPECIAL BOOKMARK FROM MOUNT RUSHMORE, SO BE SURE TO COMMENT …AND GOOD LUCK!!
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