Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mt. Rushmore

In addition to my blog being a source of entertainment and ranting, hopefully, I can share some actual knowledge from time to time. Today's lesson is about Mt. Rushmore.

Have you ever wondered about the answers to the following questions?

Why is it called Mt. Rushmore?
Why did they decide to carve this mountain in middle of South Dakota?
Why Teddy Roosevelt? Does he seem just a little random of a choice to you?
Well, thanks to the Park Ranger that lead our tour, I have some answers for you. (You may correct me if I have any details off.)
First of all, just who or what was Rushmore? Well, Charles Rushmore, a lawyer from New York was on an expedition to the Black Hills in 1880 looking for new mining possibilities. He asked his guide what the name was for the mountain, and when he was told that it didn't have a name, he decided to name it after himself.
Why South Dakota? Well, state historian, Doane Robinson, knew about a project that sculptor Gutzon Borglum was working on in Georgia. He decided to have Borglum come out and sculpt the granite Needles in the Black Hills. He thought this would be a great way to boost tourism to the area. Goodness knows, we wouldn't have gone out there if it weren't for Mt. Rushmore (Mom has been saying for the past few years that she wanted to go to Mt. Rushmore, Mt. Rushmore, Mt. Rushmore, thus we went), so Robinson must have been a genius.
Originally, the idea was too sculpt the Needles with images of heroes of the west. But, Borglum pointed out that the Needles were to brittle, and once they decided on Mt. Rushmore, the sculptor decided it needed a more national approach. It should be Presidents. And as the artist, he choose the Presidents.
As far as the selection of which Presidents was concerned, that is a little longer of a story really. Originally, the mountain would have two presidents - and their full bodies at that. George Washington - obvious choice as the first president.
Abraham Lincoln - because he was Borglum's favorite president.
When it was decided that there was room for a third, Thomas Jefferson was added because of the expansion of the US under his presidency.
Several changes were made in the grand plans. Once it was decided the granite wasn't all that carvable from head to toe, Borglum decided to back off that plan and go for waist up. Then it was decided to just go to faces.

The plans had to be flexible. In fact, Thomas Jefferson was at one time to the other side of Washington. But when the granite wasn't working out, they blasted his face off and moved him to the other side. There was even a postcard in the gift shop that showed the early work and the original placement of Jefferson. I found that quite interesting.
Roosevelt came along when it was decided there was room for a fourth figure because of his contributions to the expansion of the US. It didn't hurt that he was a personal friend of the sculptor either.
The park ranger made it sound like the sculptor had total control of who was put on the mountain. Wikipedia (where I was verifying a couple of things) said that President Coolidge and Congress dictated two Republicans and one Democrat in addition to Washington. Mr. Park Ranger also said that the project ended when Borglum died and his son decided to call it finished. Wiki says that it was because they ran out of $moolah$. I kind of like the Park Ranger explanation.

What will forever now drive me crazy though, is that I never noticed in any photos before that you can see George Washington's collar. Now I see it and it kind of stands out to me now - and his shoulder. Ever noticed that?

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