Mt. Rushmore was originally built to promote tourism in the mid-west, but now it represents America’s culture and history.
Doane Robinson first introduced the idea of carving famous people in to mountain sides to generate tourism in the mid-west of America. Doane’s had chosen the Needles site as the location where the heads were to be carved. Gutzon Borglum was commissioned the job to begin constructing the site. Borglum rejected Robinson’s idea to carve many famous people, opting to only carve people which best represented America’s first 150 years. He chose George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. In addition, he moved the location from the Needles site to Mt. Rushmore, a higher mountain location. The original project was to include a plaque in the shape of the Louisiana Purchase, bodies to the waist and rumored to include Betsy Ross, but funding for the project was cut short in 1941. After Gutzon Borglum passed away from an embolism in March of 1941, his son Lincoln Borglum took control of the project. Lincoln Borglum suffered an ear trauma during construction, rendering him almost deaf. He was able to communicate through his wife who helped him continue construction.
Behind the carved faces is a 70 foot chamber cut into the rock. The chamber was originally intended to be an entry way in to the Hall of Records, but now contains 16 porcelain enamel panels. The panels contain the Declaration of Independence, biographies on the four carved presidents, the history of the United States and a biography of Mt. Rushmore’s creator, Gutzon Borglum.
Borglum and 400 workers began construction in 1927, with the faces being completed between 1934 and 1939. George Washington’s face was dedicated by July 4, 1934. Two years later in 1936, Thomas Jefferson’s face was completed and dedicated. The following year on September 17, 1937, Abraham Lincoln’s face was dedicated. The final carving, Theodore Roosevelt, was completed and dedicated in 1939.
Doane’s original quest for tourism came true as over 2,000,000 tourists visit the site each year. In addition, Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota have been featured in several movies.
The entire memorial covers 1278.45 acres in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Each carving is 60 feet tall, which is the same size as the face of the Great Sphinx of Egypt. The carvings rise 5,500 feet above sea level. Over 800 million pounds of stone, rock and dirt were removed from the site. The entire project cost $989,992.32.
quick facts & Figures
Construction Start: 1927
Project Ended: 1941
Washington Completed: 1934
Jefferson Completed: 1936
Lincoln Completed: 1937
Roosevelt Completed: 1939
Designer: Gutzon Borglum
Face Height: 60′
Annual Tourism: 2,000,000
Total Cost: $989,992.32