Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mt. Rushmore

Location: Rapid City, South Dakota

Click for Larger Image of Mt. RushmoreWe all know what is on Mt. Rushmore... but who was Rushmore, and why was this hill named for him? Charles E. Rushmore, attorney, found himself in the Black Hills of Dakota in 1885 to check property titles for a mining company. One day, as he walked near the mountain with some business contacts, he asked them the name of the peak. The response was, "Never had any but it has now - we'll call the damn thing Rushmore" -- and it stuck. Forty years later, Charles Rushmore made the single largest donation ($5000) towards the sculpture of the four President's heads that has now made Mt. Rushmore a huge tourist attraction and one of the most recognizable names in Americana.

Click for Larger Image of Rushmore ModelThe heads on Mt. Rushmore were sculpted by Gutzon Borglum, who began the carving in 1927 and finished it in 1941. Early models (see one version on right) called for the President's torsos to be included, but this was later dropped for financial reasons. In the final version, the beginnings of a jacket can still be seen on George Washington. As the outer rock was removed and the carving granite exposed, unusable granite was sometimes found and the sculptures had to be changed to avoid these areas.

To transfer the dimensions from a model to the actual sculpture a very old technique was used. Protractors were placed on the top of the head of both the model and the mountain's sculpture, using a 12:1 ratio, and a plumb bob was dropped from the model's protractor to a point on the face. Measurements of the angle of the protractor and the length of the plumb bob line were taken and transferred to the Monument.

Click for Larger Image of Mt. Rushmore CloseupSome Rushmore Facts:

  • The faces on Mt. Rushmore are 60 feet high.

  • Mount Rushmore was originally conceived to increase tourism. It is now the number one attraction in South Dakota, and over 2 million people visit it each year.

  • 400 workers were involved in the creation of the Monument, and not a single fatality occurred.

  • Workers would use large charges of dynamite to remove large amounts of rock as they began each section, but as they got closer to the face they decreased the charges. They got so good at dynamiting the rock that they continued to use the explosive until they were within 2-3 inches of the face. Then they changed to a tool more suitable for fine work -- the jack-hammer.

  • Borglum's criteria for the selection of the Presidents was simple -- he included those he felt did the most to preserve the Republic and expand the territories. While he was a personal friend of Borglum's, Theodore Roosevelt, the last likeness to be authorized by Congress, was included because of his contributions to the creation of the Panama Canal.

  • The Lakota Indians consider the Black Hills to be sacred, and a group critical of the monument once demanded that it be destroyed.

  • A dedication ceremony was held after each face was completed which served to keep interest high and donations flowing. A huge American flag, large enough to completely cover the face, was put in place until the unveiling.

  • Thomas Jefferson had been originally carved on Washington's right, but the rock was found to be unsuitable so his likeness was dynamited off the rock and re-carved on Washington's left.

  • A huge text panel to commemorate the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and other American documents was to be carved to the right of the heads, but this was cancelled due to a lack of funding.

  • Total cost: $989,992.32.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gutzon Borglum's nephew, George, lived in a house right behind mine. George taught French at Wayne State University in Detroit. Dr. Suess was a friend of George's and stayed there at least once. Gutzon's son, Lincoln, finished the carving on Mt. Rushmore.
Aren't you glad that I got to be a serious history buff?