"Until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away.", go the words of Gutzon Borglum, on the long-lasting nature of his renowned work, Mt. Rushmore.
Mount Rushmore stands as a 'shrine of Democracy' in South Dakota. It has commemorated four epoch-making presidents of America. It typifies the first 150 years of the history of the United States. It is a huge granite sculpture by Gutzon Borglum. Mt. Rushmore history dates back to 1923. This memorial continues to be the most popular tourist spot in South Dakota.
The project of carving Mt. Rushmore was undertaken with the intent of attracting tourists to the Black Hills region of South Dakota. Doane Robinson, a state historian of South Dakota, conceptualized this construction in 1923, which would have carvings of eminent people on the mountain. The project received Congressional Approval and the carving began in 1927. The underlying concept was to promote tourism to Black Hills, South Dakota.
A famous sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, was called upon to undertake the project. Originally, it was decided to carve the granite pillars, which were called the Needles. But Borglum realized they were too thin to be carved and chose Mount Rushmore, for his sculpting. One reason behind his choice was that the mountain faced southeast, which meant it would get sunlight for most part of the day. Also, it was the highest peak in the nearby region and made of granite, which made it resistant to erosion. On seeing the mountain, he had said, "America will march along that skyline." The sculpting began.
Borglum used the ancient Greek method of making models and mapping measurements from the model to the mountain. One inch on the model scaled to one foot on the mountain. The carving commenced from the 4th of October 1927.
It was decided to sculpt faces of four Presidents of the United States, namely George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, on Mt. Rushmore. Each represented a specific role in the preservation and expansion of their territory. Washington brought democracy to America, Thomas Jefferson came up with the concept of having a 'government by the people', Abraham Lincoln was monumental in ending slavery in America while Theodore Roosevelt brought in business reforms.
Thomas Jefferson was going to be carved to the right side of Washington on Mt. Rushmore. After around two years of work, the rock was found to have cracked. Due to this, it was blasted off and Jefferson found his new place to the left of Washington. In 1936, he was dedicated. President Franklin Roosevelt attended the ceremony. Roosevelt expressed his amusement and said that he had no clue that the monument would be so magnificent.
Borglum had estimated that carving on Rushmore would take not more than 6 years and a funding of about $500,000. Rock was removed from the mountain using dynamite, until a 3-6 inch layer of granite was left. Honeycombing was used to remove the final granite layer. The surface was smoothed. Julian Spotts, a National Park Service Engineer suggested upgrades in the working conditions and efficiency of the machines used. The project was completed in 1941 and ended up costing $900,000.
By the time of Roosevelt's dedication on Rushmore, lighting arrangements had been made at the memorial. So, Roosevelt's face was uncovered from under the flag and slowly illuminated. Fireworks and rockets lighting up the sky, followed this revelation. The faces of the four revolutionaries were carved in the once faceless mountain. The work was completed in the year 1941. A seemingly impossible dream had come true.
There's an interesting story about how Mt. Rushmore obtained its name. Once, Charles Rushmore, David Swanzey, and Bill Challis were on an expedition to this mountain. Rushmore asked Bill the name of that mountain. Bill said that the mountain never had a name and from then it should be called Mount Rushmore!
The first actual work of sculpting Mt. Rushmore began on October 4, 1927 and continued for 14 long years. Gutzon Borglum was 60 when the work started. He had thought of carving a brief American history on the face of the cliff. But due to lack of funding, that could not come to reality.
In 1930, when Americans faced the consequences of Great Depression, an appeal was made to the school kids of America to donate towards the Mt. Rushmore project. They had pictured a collection on $10,000, but only $1,700 were collected. But that means even school children had a share in funding the project.
Mount Rushmore bears the busts of four U.S. Presidents. Some interesting figures entail the enormity of this sculpture. Washington's face is 60 feet long, Jefferson's mouth, 18 feet wide, Roosevelt's mustache is 20 feet across and the eyes of the four men are 11 feet wide each. By carving 22-inch pupils into each eye, Gutzon poured life into the sculptures.
The rock blasted off during the sculpting of Mt. Rushmore amounted to 800 million pounds of stone. The pneumatic drills used, weighed 85 pounds. Workers used to feel unsafe, remaining hung from the cliff by means of cables. Many had silicosis out of breathing granite dust. Around 400 men worked on the project. Neither the harsh winds nor the scorching sun could cease their efforts. Surprisingly, no deaths were reported in spite of the hardships, risks, and the use of dynamite.
South Dakota's Black Hills stand in the background of Mt. Rushmore. There are many programs like studio talks and Presidential Trail walks, conducted on Mt. Rushmore, the evening light ceremony being a spectacular sight. The avenue of Flags runs from Concession Building to the Grandview Terrace. Flags of 56 states and territories flutter below the memorial.
Plant life on mount Rushmore includes a variety of shrubs and flowers like snapdragon and violet. Approximately, after every 27 years, forest fires occur in the Ponderosa forests, which surround mount Rushmore. Ledges of the mountain house nests of birds like the bald eagle and hawk. Mammals like the mouse, chipmunk, and various species of frogs and snakes are found in the region. Mt. Rushmore is a famous tourist attraction.
Today, Mt. Rushmore stands as a testimonial of the craftsmanship of Gutzon Borglum and his team. The sculpture has immortalized the heroes of American history.