Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mount Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore
This summer the kids and I are heading off to visit my family in Minnesota. On the way back we have decided to also drop in and take a detour to see Mount Rushmore in beautiful South Dakota. 

When I think of Mt Rushmore I  remember the famous dialogue from the American dark comedy film “Drop Dead Gorgeous”, where Rebecca ‘Becky’ Leeman aka Richard Denise proudly proclaims “I chose Mount Rushmore, cause to live in a country where you can take an ugly old mountain and put faces on it, faces of great Americans who did so much to make our country super great, well that makes me, Rebecca Leeman, proud to be an American.” This must be the common belief of all American citizens who take pride in the magnanimous effort required to build this mountain of fame. Mount Rushmore, located in the black hills of South Dakota, is a massive granite representation of the initial 150 years of U.S history, with 60 foot sculpted portraits of the four most notable presidents of the United States. George Washington, who held office from 1789 to 1797; Thomas Jefferson, who was president from 1801 to 1809; Theodore Roosevelt, who was in office from 1901 to 1909; and Abraham Lincoln, whose tenure was from 1861 to 1865 have their portraits engraved on the solid rocks of Rushmore. This article contains few intriguing facts about Mount Rushmore.
Interesting & Fun Facts About Mt. Rushmore
  • Gutzon Borglum, the prime sculptor to be assigned the task, was 60 years old when he began working on the monument.
  • The mountain is named after a New York City Attorney, Charles E. Rushmore, who enquired about the mountain's name during a business trip in 1885. A miner working on the spot responded with a smarmy remark and in 1930, the mountain was officially recognized by this name.
  • Mount Rushmore project was undertaken since it was Gutzon Borglum’s desire to commemorate the ideals of the four major presidents of United States and pay tribute to their immense contribution for the nation’s well being. In his own words, they were chosen because they "commemorate the founding, growth, preservation, and development to the United States."
  • Keeping this factor in mind, George Washington was picked since he was the one to bring in the concept of a democratic nation; Thomas Jefferson since he authored the Declaration of Independence; Abraham Lincoln for putting an end to the American slave culture and Theodore Roosevelt for his honest endeavor for the causes of conservation and business. 
  • The structure was originally intended to only have George Washington, but after the commission was authorized by Congress in 1925, President Coolidge insisted that a Democrat and two Republicans be portrayed as well.
  • Initially, Thomas Jefferson’s portrait was to be carved on the right of George Washington. After 18 months the workers realized that it was not working. Then, Jefferson’s face was dynamited off and carved on the other side. 
  • The granite faces on Mount Rushmore tower over 5,500 feet above sea level.
  • Each President's head is as tall as a six-story building and the carvings are scaled to men who would stand 465 feet tall.
  • The presidents’ noses are 20 feet long, their mouths 18 feet wide, and their eyes are about 11 feet across.
  • Over 800 million pounds of stone was removed from Mount Rushmore during the construction.
  • Each day, the workers had to climb 506 steps to reach the top of Mount Rushmore.
  • The entire monument cost $989,992.32 to build.
  • Mount Rushmore took around 14 years to be completed.
  • Except for a few minor injuries, no incident of death was reported during the entire period of carving.
  • There is a cave behind the carving called the "Hall of Records." It was intended to house the story of Mount Rushmore but was never completed due to lack of funding.
  • Thomas Jefferson was originally started on George Washington's right. However, after 18 months they realized that it was not working. Jefferson's face was dynamited off and carved on the other side.
  • It took 14 years to complete Mount Rushmore.
  • No one died while building Mount Rushmore.
  • There is a cave behind the carving called the "Hall of Records." It was intended to house the story of Mount Rushmore but was never completed due to lack of funding.


It turns out that the monument sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, had an incredibly elaborate vision for the mountain that included much more than the four presidential heads we see today. He had wanted to carve the shape of the Louisiana Purchase into the mountain, and inside the shape, carve descriptions of the most significant events in American history. Logistically that plan wasn't going to work out, so he created a new plan for a Hall of Records, with the goal of creating a repository for the story of our country for future civilizations. Documents in this repository would include our nation's charter documents. Borglum had even started blasting and drilling out the cavity in the mountain for this chamber. Funding for the project was coming from the government, and they had asked that Borglum focus his efforts towards completing the faces before any more work was done on the Hall of Records. In 1941, Borglum died, and work on the project effectively came to a halt.

The idea of having a vault didn't die though. Borglum's original plan was revised a bit, but the intent remained, and in 1998, tablets with the story of our nation were sealed in a vault in the unfinished Hall of Records. Sixteen porcelain enamel panels containing the text from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, along with a biography of Borglum, and the story of the presidents, were sealed in a teakwood box, then placed in a titanium vault, and finally sealed shut under the weight of a 1,200 pound granite capstone inside the unfinished hall.

This is not a time capsule. These documents are to remain buried for thousands of years. Borglum literally had it in mind to send the message of our country to future civilizations. He said, "you might as well drop a letter into the world's postal service without an address or signature, as to send that carved mountain into history without identification."

Access to the Hall of Records is closed to the public. Because the Hall is located behind the heads, near the cliffs, public safety is a concern. Part of the story in the National Treasure movie apparently does take place in the Hall of Records, but what appears in the movie may only be aerial shots of the entrance. Set designers in Hollywood will recreate the rest. To get a glimpse of the entrance today, or to learn more about the Hall of Records, Rhonda had suggested this book which is available from the Mt Rushmore bookstore.

We cannot wait to experience first hand such rich history, who knows maybe we will get a peak at the unfinished Hall of Records.

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