Katie Gerard English Comp I Mrs. Hynek Descriptive Research 5 October 2012 Mount Rushmore: the History Ever since Mount Rushmore was created it has been and iconic symbol because of its beauty, magnificent and especially its history. Mount Rushmore is a shrine of democracy, a monument and memorial to the birth of America. Mount Rushmore is a symbol of the nation through the greatness of its leaders. The magnificent sculpture depicts the faces of four American presidents who symbolize this nation’s history, rugged determination and long-lasting achievements.
According to an episode of Modern Marvels: Mount Rushmore, Doane Robinson, South Dakota’s state historian, wanted a way to attract tourism to the Black Hills in the early 1920s. Robinson came up with the idea to sculpt “the Needles. ” “The Needles” were ancient stone structures, made of granite, almost impossible to carve, but Robinson was not turned away. The needles were not an option so he choose Mount Rushmore, which were near “The Needles. ” All he knew was that he needed to recruit an artist who loved a challenge.
He recruited Gutzon Borglum, world renowned stone sculpture, who, according to Howard Shaff, co-writer of his biography Six Wars at a Time, “was always looking for new worlds to conquer” (Modern Marvels). At this time Borglum was carving “Stone Mountain” in Atlanta, GA, but the project was stopped, because of his temper, and he needed a new project to restore his reputation. In 1925 Borglum and his son, Lincoln, explored the Black Hills for a carving site.
This is where he stumbled upon Mount Rushmore and “envisioned the ultimate American monument” (Modern Marvels). Mount Rushmore was solid granite, like “the Needles” and riddled with cracks, but this did not turn Borglum away. He stated “American history shall march along this skyline” (Modern Marvels). Borglum convinced Robison not to sculpt western folk heroes and to instead sculpt four American presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, who all “symbolized the evolution of American spirit” (Modern Marvels).
He choose Washington because he was the father of our country and led the fight for freedom; Jefferson because he wrote the Declaration of Independence and had the vision of a growing nation, which inspired the Louisiana Purchase; Lincoln, the great emancipator, who served “the union of states in its darkest hour;” and choose Roosevelt because he was a spirited individualist who defined 20th century America and was an old friend of Borglum (Modern Marvels). It took Borglum two years, the funds, and a president to get the project started.
In 1927 President Calvin Coolidge took a trip to South Dakota; this was Borglum’s opportunity to secure official federal recognition and raise the much needed funds. To impress Coolidge, South Dakota Governor William Bulow made a hunting lodge available and named it Summer White House. He also renamed a local stream, “Grace Coolidge Creek,” and stocked it with prize winning fish. It all worked, Coolidge loosened up and “Borglum gave Coolidge Mount Rushmore Fever” (Modern Marvels). 1000 people showed up to watch Coolidge and the Secret Service declare work on Mount Rushmore; this event took place August 10 1927.
Work began that October. In 1929, during the last days of Coolidge’s presidency, he signed the legislation which granted the Mount Rushmore project $250,000 in federal funds (Modern Marvels). Borglum first started with miniature models of each president, which he held in the sun to see how they would reflect. Then he made a 1:12 model of Mount Rushmore out of plaster. He used the 1:12 ratio so the measurement could be converted to feet easily. This model was then carried up to the mountain and he and his 400 workers used the pointing technique, an ancient Greek method, to transfer the model onto the mountain.
Pointing consisted of an angle and two measurements, one measurement on the top of the studio model and the other on the actual carving, and then he placed a vertical axis. It was like a giant propeller on each head. They took the measurement of each angle, distance from the axis, and distance from the top the workers who were called “pointers,” (which was Borglum son in this case), found the spot where drilling or blasting happened (People & Events: Carving the Mountain). Over the years, Mount Rushmore began to take shape.
Borglum had to constantly change his design due to the shape of the granite. To extract the rock, workers used the “Honey Combing” technique, which involved making small holes in the rock where dynamite could fit to remove up to six inches of rock (People & Events: Carving the Mountain). Workers also used channel irons, jack hammers with a four star bit, and pneumatic devices to shape and smooth the faces. According to Glen Bradford, a Mount Rushmore worker, “you had to be one tough person to hold that jackhammer all day, while dangling in the air” (Modern Marvels).
The workers had a hard time visualizing what they were making while working so close to it so Borglum made five foot models of each head and hung them below the workers so they could see and feel what they were doing. According to Orville Worman, another Mount Rushmore worker, Lincoln Borglum, Borglum’s son, didn’t get any credit for all the work he did. He hired all the workers and most of the time was the project manager because his father was gone for months at a time (Modern Marvels). When the depression hit, it caused the work to slow down.
Shaff said that Borglum “could not understand how money could put a limit on his dream,” (Modern Marvels) and with the dwindling funds and the depression, Borglum’s temper was uncontrollable. But Borglum was not giving up; he used Roosevelt’s plan of bringing America back as a springboard to keep the project going. He used films to show the nation each stage and keep the public and politicians informed. Borglum had many other dreams for the monument like a timeline of American events and a “Hall of Fame” behind Lincoln’s head. Congress wanted it done and the hall project cancelled when Borglum passed away in 1941.
The partial tunnel is still there and it shows the hard work of everyone (Modern Marvels). After Borglum’s death, there was no chief for the project World War II was declared, and Congress wanted all work to stop on Mount Rushmore. His son closed up shop. After 14 years of work, Mount Rushmore was an unfinished dream of one man’s conception and beliefs of America’s evolution. It was a piece of art done by the “Work of a dreamer, inspired by dreamers, [which included] the sacrifice of many, and celebrated the promise for America” (Modern Marvels).
The shrine of democracy is visited by 2. 5 million people every year (Mount Rushmore National Memorial). Some people visit to relive the memory of watching it being carved and some visit on a patriotic adventure of America, and when leaving people cannot forget the beauty, magnificence, and history of Mount Rushmore. It “has become one of the most iconic images of America and an international tourist attraction” (Mount Rushmore). Bibliography Modern Marvels: Mount Rushmore. Dir. Jeff Scheftel. Perf. Harlan Saperstein, William O. Farber, James Popovich, Howard Shaff, and Dan Wenk.
History Channel, 1996. TV “Mount Rushmore. ” History. com. A&E Television Networks, n. d. Web. 01 Oct. 2012. <http://www. history. com/topics/mount-rushmore>. “People & Events: Carving the Mountain. ” PBS. PBS, 1999. Web. 01 Oct. 2012. <http://www. pbs. org/wbgh/amex/rushmore/peopleevents/e_carving. html>. “Mount Rushmore National Memorial. ” Mount Rushmore Info, Directory Information for Vacationers at Mt. Rushmore. SD Web Traveler, Inc. , 12 June 2012. Web. 01 Oct. 2012. <http://www. mountrushmoreinfo. com/>.