Things You Should Know About Mount Rushmore

Sure, you should know this stuff. It might just help you win your local bar’s trivia night some time.

FYI: This information, unless otherwise specified, comes from the National Park Service’s Mount Rushmore National Memorial website, as I don’t know a thing about Mount Rushmore. See, we are all learning.

1. Mount Rushmore was created (carved? sculpted? dynamited?) over a period of fourteen years by approximately four hundred workers at a cost of $989,992.32. The original concept was even grander in scale, but funding issues kept it from being completed as planned. Actually, the whole process of creating the project, getting permission for the project, and finding funding for the project was quite complicated and overtly-political in nature. If you are interested in the details, visit the NPS site to learn more.

What do you think – do you like Rushmore better as it was envisioned or as it looks today?

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Courtesy of the National Park Service
Courtesy of the National Park Service

2. President Coolidge dedicated the memorial prior to beginning construction in August 1927 – “We have come here to dedicate a cornerstone that was laid by the hand of the Almighty. On this towering wall of Rushmore, in the heart of the Black Hills, is to be inscribed a memorial which will represent some of the outstanding features of four of our Presidents, laid on by the hand of a great artist in sculpture. This memorial will crown the height of land between the Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic seaboard, where coming generations may view it for all time. . . The union of these four Presidents carved on the face of the everlasting hills of South Dakota will constitute a distinctly national monument. It will be decidedly American in its conception, in its magnitude, in its meaning and altogether worthy of our Country. No one can look upon it understandingly without realizing that it is a picture of hope fulfilled.” You can read his full speech here.

Each president had an unveiling/dedication ceremony as the project progressed – Washington in 1930, Jefferson in 1936, Lincoln in 1937, and Roosevelt in 1939.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke when the Thomas Jefferson portion of the memorial was revealed in August 1936 – “On many occasions, when a new project is presented to you on paper and then, later on, you see the accomplishment, you are disappointed: but it is just the opposite of that in what we are looking at now. I had seen the photographs: I had seen the drawings and I had talked with those who are responsible for this great work, and yet I had had no conception until about ten minutes ago not only of its magnitude but of its permanent beauty and of its permanent importance. . . . What we have done so far exemplifies what I have been talking about in the last few days – cooperation with nature and not fighting with nature.” You can read the rest of that here.

3. Mount Rushmore was named after Charles E. Rushmore, an attorney from New York City who was originally in the Black Hills area around 1885 working with property titles and returned often to hunt. As the story goes, the mountain didn’t have an official name when Rushmore first visited the Black Hills and a local joked they would call it Mount Rushmore. Later, after learning the mountain was commonly called Slaughterhouse Rock (seriously, why?), Rushmore joked that he was there often enough to name it after him and some locals laughingly complied. This fun story could be more myth than truth, but – whatever the story – Mount Rushmore was recognized as the official name in 1930. According to Wikipedia and several other random citations online, Rushmore donated $5,000 to the memorial’s construction.

4. I’m going to pull this fact straight from the NPS website, as it it too fun not to share: “Mountain Goats are not native to the Black Hills. The population can be traced back to six goats, a gift to Custer State Park by Canada in 1924, that escaped from their pens and found their home among the granite peaks of the Black Hills. There are now approximately 200 mountain goats in the area.”

Runaway goats!

5. Gutzon Borglum, Mount Rushmore’s sculptor, began work on a large Hall of Records in the valley behind the presidential heads in 1938. He envisioned this as a museum-like place that would tell the story of the memorial (much like the current visitor’s center does) and some history of the United States. Upset by this refocus of work while the main sculpture remained unfinished, Congress threatened to cut off funding and Borglum stopped work on the Hall in 1939. It was never finished and is currently inaccessible to visitors. The photograph shows the entrance to the Hall of Records.

Courtesy of the National Park Service
Courtesy of the National Park Service

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