Mount Rushmore: History Carved in Stone

Mount Rushmore. (Photo by Dean Franklin via Wikimedia Commons)
Mount Rushmore. (Photo by Dean Franklin via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1927, construction began on Mount Rushmore.

Here are some things you may not have known about the monument.

The original idea was to depict western heroes like Buffalo Bill Cody and explorers Lewis and Clark in the Needles area of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The Needles are an area of eroded granite spires about five miles southwest of Mount Rushmore. However, the fact that they were eroded made them unsuitable for sculpting. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum advocated for the site on Mount Rushmore, which was made of better stone and faced southeast, a better exposure to the sun.

Borglum also decided to make the monument more national in scope, choosing to sculpt four former presidents of the United States.

Borglum’s original idea was to carve each of the presidents from the waist up. A model at the site shows Borglum’s original idea. Initially, Thomas Jefferson was supposed to be to the left of George Washington, however the rock wasn’t ideal and Jefferson was moved to the right.

The carving involved the use of dynamite, followed by a process called honeycombing, where workers drill holes close together and then chip away the remaining rock by hand.

Washington’s face was the first to be completed, and it was dedicated on July 4, 1934. Thomas Jefferson was completed next in 1936, followed by Abraham Lincoln in 1937 and Theodore Roosevelt in 1939.

Each face is approximately 60 feet tall. George Washington’s nose is 21 feet long and each president’s mouth is about 18 feet wide. About 450,000 tons of granite was blasted away during carving.

The total cost of the project was a little less than $1 million, and no workers were killed during construction. Borglum, however, died in 1941, and carving on the project soon came to an end.

An estimated 3 million people visit the memorial each year.

Our question: Which president authorized the carving of Mount Rushmore?


Today is World Animal Day, and Independence Day in Lesotho.

It’s unofficially National Golf Day, National Taco Day, and National Vodka Day.

It’s the birthday of former U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, who was born in 1822; actor Buster Keaton, who was born in 1895; and actress Susan Sarandon, who is 70 today.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1976, the top song in the U.S. was “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy.

The No. 1 movie was “The Front,” while the novel “Trinity” by Leon Uris topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question

Who originally coined the phrase “shot heard ’round the world” in 1837?


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