THE 456th FIGHTER INTERCEPTOR SQUADRON

THE PROTECTORS OF  S. A. C.

 

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The 20th century's most famous sculpture grouping, Mount Rushmore depicts the heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lincoln, blasted out of the face of the mountain between 1927 and 1941 by teams of workers under the direction of sculptor Gutzon Borglum, at a total cost of just under $1 million. The heads are carved to the proportion of men 465' tall. Originally, Borglum planned to carve the bodies from the waist up, but only Washington's lapels were completed. There's no more room for additional figures, though grandstanding politicians never stop proposing them.

Mount Rushmore

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Mount Rushmore National Memorial,

South Dakota

 

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Postcard of Mount Rushmore under construction

Mount Rushmore memorializes the birth, growth, preservation and development of the United States of America. Between 1927 and 1941, Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers sculpted the 60-foot busts of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to represent the first 150 years of American history. Visitors to the memorial come primarily to view the granite sculpture itself, but also of interest is the Sculptor's Studio built under the direction of the artist, Gutzon Borglum, in 1939. Unique plaster models and tools related to the sculpting process are displayed there.

 

 

 

 

THE MEANING OF MOUNT RUSHMORE

The four Presidents carved into the granite of Mount Rushmore were chosen by the sculptor to commemorate the founding, growth, preservation, and development of the United States.  They symbolize the principles of liberty and freedom on which the nation was founded.    George Washington signifies the struggle for independence and the birth of the Republic;  Thomas Jefferson the territorial expansion of the country;  Abraham Lincoln the permanent union of the states, and equality for all citizens;  and Theodore Roosevelt, the 20th century roll of The United States in world affairs, and the rights of the common man. 

 

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"A monument’s dimension should be determined by the importance to civilization of the events commemorated ... Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the word of your leader, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these record will endure until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away."

Gutzon Borglum

 

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The carving of George Washington’s head is as tall as 6-story building. If his body was carved from head to tow, the height of the full figure would be 465 feet.

Dimensions of the head:
Forehead to chin – 60 feet
Width of eye – 11 feet
Length of nose – 20 feet
Width of mouth – 18 feet

Mountain goats were brought to the area in 1924 and have adapted well to the environment. Watch for them scaling the granite rocks around Mount Rushmore

 

The 75th Anniversary Of Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, located 23 miles southwest of Rapid City, is something you don't want to miss.

It's the greatest FREE Attraction in the US!


"Until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away."

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Gutzon Borglum

Those are the famous words Sculptor Gutzon Borglum used to describe the length of time his most famous work, Mt. Rushmore, will endure.

Mt. Rushmore got its name from a joke.  The mountain itself was originally named after Charles E. Rushmore, a young New York lawyer who was vacationing and investigating mining claims in the Black Hills in what was then The Dakota Territory in 1885.  Pointing to the then-unnamed peak, he asked his guide what it was called. "I call it Mount Rushmore," joked the guide...and the name stuck.  Forty years later, when sculptor Gutzon Borglum selected the mountain for his carvings, the astonished Charles  Rushmore contributed $5,000 toward the project. 

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Gutzon Borglum

Born in the village of St. Charles Idaho, March 25, 1867
He is internationally known for his painting and sculpturing
and most famous for Mount Rushmore National Monument

 

Gutzon Borglum chose this mountain due to its height (5700' above sea level), the soft grainy consistency of the granite, and the fact that it catches the sun for the greatest part of the day.  The presidents were selected on the basis of what each symbolized.  George Washington represents the struggle for independence, Thomas Jefferson the idea of government by the people.  Abraham Lincoln for his ideas on equality and the permanent union of the states, and Theodore Roosevelt for the 20th century role of the United States in world affairs.  The carving of Mt. Rushmore actually began on August 10, 1927, and spanned a length of 14 years.  Only about six and a half years were spent actually carving the mountain, with the rest of the time being spent on weather delays and Borglum's greatest enemy - the lack of funding.  The total cost of the project was $900,000.  Work continued on the project until the death of Gutzon Borglum in 1941. No carving has been done on the mountain since that time and none is planned in the future. Mount Rushmore     

Before Carving Began1925

 The granite faces of four American presidents' is scaled to men who would stand 465 feet tall!  President Calvin Coolidge believed Mount Rushmore was "decidedly American in its conception, magnitude and meaning.  It is altogether worthy of our country," Coolidge proclaimed at the dedication of the project in 1927.

The most spectacular program at Mount Rushmore is the evening lighting ceremony held in the new amphitheater, 9:00 PM sharp.  A must see when you are touring the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota.

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Mt Rushmore at night.

A $56 million redevelopment was completed in 1998 with the addition of a new parking structure, amphitheater, museum/theater complex, Visitor Orientation Center, Presidential Trail, gift shop, bookstore, and dining facilities. To complete your Rushmore experience, view the evening lighting ceremony. The National Park Service sponsors a special program Memorial Day through Labor Day.  It consists of a 10-minute talk followed by a 20-minute film. The highlight of the evening is the slow exposure of light to the monument until it is fully illuminated. It's a good idea to go early and bring a jacket. Program times are as follows: 9:00-9:30 P.M. lighting ceremony, 9:30-10:30 P.M. illumination. For those traveling in the off season, the faces are illuminated nightly.  There are few people who are not subdued by the moments as they gaze upon the beauty of Mt. Rushmore.  Just as the monument challenged its creator, so should its splendor challenge its viewer.

 

The Geology of Mount Rushmore

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The Black Hills Of South Dekota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located along the northeast edge of what is known as the Harney Peak Granite Batholith in the Black Hills of South Dakota. A batholith is a geologic feature that formed by the cooling of a large igneous body of magma below the earth's surface; if a similar igneous body reaches the earth's surface, it would form a volcanic feature such as a lava flow. The Black Hills magma was emplaced into the older "host" mica schist rocks during Precambrian time, approximately 1.7 billion years ago!

The mica schist originated from the metamorphism (alteration by heat and pressure) of muds and sands from an ancient sea floor sometime prior to the emplacement of the Harney Peak Granite. Metamorphism of this original material produced the "slabby" appearance in the mica schist that now contains minerals such as muscovite, biotite and quartz.

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The Upper road

The Harney Peak Granite (of which Mount Rushmore is carved) consists of fine-grained minerals including quartz, feldspar, muscovite and biotite. It is believed that these minerals formed approximately 8 miles below the earth's surface from molten magma. Some cracks developed as a result of the cooling of the magma and were later "patched" with molten magma. The result was the emplacement of pegmatite dikes that filled the fractures and zones of weakness in the granite. Today these pegmatite dikes are expressed as white streaks on the foreheads of Presidents Washington and Lincoln. Elsewhere in the Black Hills, economically significant mineral deposits are found associated with these pegmatite bodies.

The Harney Peak granite was likely exposed at the surface prior to Cambrian time, but was covered by sandy sediment when the Cambrian seas invaded the Black Hills some 550 million years ago. Today, these sands are part of the Deadwood Formation sandstones that contain grains derived from the ancient Harney Peak granite and the exposed Precambrian surface. The granite core of the Black Hills continued to be further buried during the rest of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras of geologic time and wasn't exposed to surface processes again until some 50 million years ago when today's Black Hills began to take on their present form.

Weathering and erosion have been carving these rocks since then, but the most noticeable "carving" occurred in the 20th century when Gutzon Borglum oversaw the project to construct Mount Rushmore as a "shrine to democracy".

The carvings occur within a granite sheet several hundred feet thick that has intruded the older schists. The irregular nature of the granite intrusion is noticeable just below the bust of George Washington, where the lighter colored granite sharply comes in contact with the darker schist.

 

 A Shrine of Democracy

Sixty million years ago this land was in turmoil.  Hills and mountains were being thrust up and gradually eroded.  On the nearly indestructible granite face of one of these peaks, Mount Rushmore, the heads of four American Presidents have been carved in bold relief.  These figures symbolize the birth and trials of the first 150 years of the United States.  Individually they represent the ideals of the Nation.

The Memorial Idea
In 1923, Doane Robinson, the South Dakota State historian, conceived the idea of carving colossal statues of romantic western heroes such as Jim Bridger, John Colter, and Kit Carson on the granite formations known as "the Needles" in the Black Hills. The proposal had only moderate public acceptance, and at times criticism of the project was severe. But Robinson was able to gain the influential support of South Dakota Senator Peter Norbeck and Representative William Williamson. Slowly public opinion changed, the memorial was authorized, and some funds were obtained to begin the work. Robinson invited the sculptor Gutzon Borglum to the Black Hills in the autumn of 1924 to study the proposal.

John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum was born in St. Charles, Idaho, on March 25, 1867. He began painting at an early age, and in his early twenties sales of his works enabled him to study art in France for several years. It was there, in 1890, that he began to sculpt. His final paintings were completed in 1903, and from that time on he worked only as a sculptor. His fame grew, as did the size of his works. In 1915 he was asked by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to carve a head of Gen. Robert E. Lee on Stone Mountain in Georgia. Work did not begin until 1923, but some demands made by Borglum soon led to his dismissal. The invitation to the Black Hills presented him with an opportunity to create a monument whose dimensions would be "determined by the importance to civilization of the events commemorated". For this purpose a location other than the Needles was needed. After much searching Borglum selected Mount Rushmore because:

 

Carving the Monument

Work on the mountain began August 10, 1927, the same day President Calvin Coolidge officially dedicated Mount Rushmore as a national memorial. Fourteen years were needed to bring the sculpture to its present appearance, but because of delays caused by lack of funds and bad weather only 6½ years were actually spent in carving.

In the early years private donations supported the project, but when more funds were required the Federal Government assumed full financial responsibility. Federal appropriations accounted for $836,000 of the $990,000 spent on the memorial between 1927 and 1941. In March of the latter year Gutzon Borglum died. His son Lincoln, who had worked closely with his father on the monument, continued the project until funds ran out later the same year. Since then no additional carving has been done, nor is any further work on the memorial planned.

 

Mountain Carving

To say that Mount Rushmore was "carved" is to use a convenient figure of speech. Very few conventional sculpturing methods were employed in what was actually "a unique engineering accomplishment". Gutzon Borglum used the engineering techniques at Mount Rushmore that he had developed during his work on Stone Mountain. He first designed a grouping of the four Presidents to conform to the mountain's granite cap, but deep cracks and fissures' later discovered in the rock, required nine changes in the design. Five-foot models of each figure guided the workmen on the mountain. Measurements were taken from the models with a horizontal bar and plumb bob, enlarged 12 times, and transferred to the mountain. After a reference point, such as the tip of a nose, was located, excess rock could be removed with dynamite, often to within three or four inches of the finished surface. Some 450,000 tons of rock were removed in this manner.

Drillers, suspended over the face of the mountain in "swing seats" used jack hammers to honeycomb the surface with shallow holes at intervals of about three inches. The remaining rock was wedged off with a small drill, or a hammer and wedging tool. Finally the sculpture was smoothed with a small air hammer in a process known as "bumping."

 

The Art Of John Gutzon Borglum

 

THE MAKING OF MOUNT RUSHMORE

 

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Deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota stands one of the biggest and unlikeliest monuments on the face of the earth -- a feat of modern engineering that relied on the ingenuity of the Ancient Greeks; a carving of surprising delicacy, fashioned with jack hammers . . . and dynamite; a work of public art that began without a whisper of public support.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is as much a product of its time as it is the work of a talented sculptor. If not for a nation inspired by its victory in World War I and fueled by a postwar economy, it is questionable whether the project would ever have been completed.


 

The Father of Rushmore

 

Doane Robinson (1856-1946)

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The Upper road

As the winds whipped the prairies of central South Dakota in December 1923, Doane Robinson, the aging superintendent of the State Historical Society, had a vision of a massive mountain memorial carved from granite formations known as "the Needles" in the Black Hills.  Colossal statues of romantic western heroes so large it would put South Dakota on the map.

Robinson told all who would listen of his dream of giant statues marching along South Dakota's skyline. He pictured carvings of western figures such as General George Armstrong Custer, Buffalo Bill Cody, Lewis and Clark, and legendary Sioux warriors.  The proposal had only moderate public acceptance, and at times criticism of the project was severe.

Robinson spoke to civic and fraternal organizations and wrote letter upon letter.  Many South Dakotans believed that a colossal sculpture would attract thousands of visitors with heavy wallets.  Others found the notion ludicrous.  Finally, when the newspaper stories stopped and the snickers ceased, Robinson enlisted the aid of the one man he knew could carry the torch -  the influential South Dakota Senator Peter Norbeck and Representative William Williamson. 

Norbeck, a frequent visitor at the White House, had the admiration of his peers in the Senate and the farmers and ranchers of South Dakota who had sent him to Washington.  Robinson's mountain-carving proposal captured the senior senator's imagination.   He encouraged the historian to seek a sculptor capable of commanding such a project.

Slowly public opinion changed, the memorial was authorized, and some funds were obtained to begin the work.  Robinson invited the sculptor Gutzon Borglum to the Black Hills in the autumn of 1924 to study the proposal.

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Doane Robinson

Though Gutzon Borglum was its creator, Doane Robinson was the man who first conceived of Mount Rushmore.

Sadie Robinson became an older sister in 1856 but could not pronounce her baby brother's first name. So she called Jonah LeRoy Robinson "Doane," and his family name stuck. When he came of age, Doane Robinson started working as a farmer in Minnesota, but found he was more interested in books than crops. He became a lawyer and set up a practice in the Dakotas. A second career change found him studying history, and eventually securing a job as South Dakota's state historian. In that position he wrote histories of the state, biographies of important personages, and collected and archived thousands of artifacts and articles for the state historical society.

Robinson was encouraged by the tourism dollars the Black Hills brought, but thought, "Tourists soon get fed up on scenery unless it has something of special interest connected with it to make it impressive."  Reading about Stone Mountain, Robinson had the idea to propose sculpting the Needles, giant pillars of granite, into the forms of some of the West's greatest heroes, both Native Americans and pioneers.  In 1923 he wrote to a man considered one of America's best sculptors, Lorado Taft.  Taft was ill, however, so the next year Robinson made a similar proposal to Gutzon Borglum.  It was a good time to offer work to the artist -- he and his patrons at Stone Mountain, Georgia were in an intractable dispute.  Borglum agreed to the project but suggested that the subjects be George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, making the project a national, rather than regional, monument.

Robinson introduced a bill into the state legislature to authorize carving a mountain in Custer State Park and asking for funds to begin surveying the site.  The funds were refused, but permission was granted.  The monument was not unanimously welcomed. Native Americans saw the carving as an abomination, and local newspapers published hostile comments.  Cora Johnson, an early environmentalist, wrote attacks in the Hot Springs Star against what she viewed as a desecration of the landscape.  Borglum refused to refer to her by name, only as "that Hot Springs person" and "an agent of evil."

Robinson met Borglum on the artist's first visit to South Dakota in 1924.  On his second visit in 1925, the sculptor announced that he would not carve the Needles, but would find an appropriate mountain instead.  After Borglum decided on Rushmore, Robinson, then 69 years old, joined a party in scaling the mountain.

From that moment, Robinson became the de facto local manager of the project and he scrambled, along with Senator Peter Norbeck, to facilitate and appease the efforts and demands of the rather headstrong artist.  When Borglum decided to hold a dedicatory spectacle, he wired: "SHALL BRING SOME COSTUMES FOR CEREMONIES CAN YOU GET A FEW REAL INDIANS FOR SPECTATORS ... "

The man was hard to keep track of, and Robinson sent this message on the day he was expected: "BORGLUM DID NOT ARRIVE ... DO YOU KNOW HIS PLANS ... SPECTATORS AND INDIANS HARD TO HOLD."

When the day did come, Robinson's was one of the speeches for the occasion.  "Americans!" he declaimed. "Stand uncovered in humility and reverence, before the majesty of this mighty mountain!"

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U.S. President Calvin Coolidge is on horseback to attend the dedication ceremony of the Mount Rushmore Memorial in South Dakota, Aug. 15, 1927.

The biggest problem with working with Borglum was always money.  "I really do not know what financial support is back of the proposition," Robinson wrote to Norbeck.  Robinson had been repeating Borglum's assurance that South Dakotans would not shoulder the brunt of the financing, and when the artist then asked the locals for their contributions, Robinson felt like he looked like a fool or a liar.  Somehow, Robinson managed to function despite Borglum's constant boasts and contradictions.

When work began, the headquarters of the project were established south of Rushmore itself on a pine-covered hill.  In honor of Robinson, this spot is known as Doane Mountain.

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Gutzon Borglum

In 1929, in the last days of Calvin Coolidge's term, the president signed a bill giving appropriations to Rushmore and creating a commission to oversee the project.  The Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission consisted of a dozen important men -- but not Doane Robinson.  He was neither rich, nor had he the large-scale managerial experience the project needed.  Still, Rushmore had been his idea in the first place, and he was heartbroken.  "South Dakota has already forgotten that I ever had anything to do with the matter."  He was disappointed that his friend Norbeck hadn't stood up for him, but in fact, Norbeck had refused a position on the committee in solidarity with his friend.  Later in the year, a Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society was formed to solicit $100 memberships and Robinson was put in charge of that effort, but generally, his labors were no longer enlisted.

After retiring as state historian, Robinson became "a farmer with the grime of toil on my fists."  He lived long enough to see the completion of Rushmore, and died in 1946.

Gutzon Borglum, student of the great French artist Auguste Rodin, was one of America's most successful artists before he even considered Mount Rushmore.  His Mares of Diomedes was the first work by an American artist ever purchased by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has five statues on display at the U.S. Capitol Building.
 

Biography Of John Gutzon Borglum

 

Ready for a Change


Meanwhile, sculptor Gutzon Borglum, one of America's most prolific artists, was hard at work creating a Confederate memorial on a quarter mile of cliff at Stone Mountain, Georgia.  After nine years of inadequate funding, constant confrontations with the board of directors who had hired him, and the interruption of World War I, Borglum was more than fed up with the project's lack of progress.

Right at that time, Robinson's proposal arrived.  To Borglum, a fiery and stubborn artist who lived for visions, not setbacks, Robinson's letter of August 1924 couldn't have come at a more opportune moment.

 

Mixed Signals


Doane Robinson's conception of the monument was of Western heroes carved from the granite spires of the rock formation known as the Needles. But Borglum would have none of it. Arriving in September 1924, the flamboyant sculptor politely but forcefully informed Robinson and Norbeck that his life's work would not be spent immortalizing regional heroes. Borglum insisted the work demanded a subject national in nature and timeless in its relevance to history.

By selecting four great presidential figures for the carving, the trio sought to create an eternal reminder of the birth, growth, preservation, and development of a nation dedicated to democracy and the pursuit of individual liberty. Borglum concluded:

"We believe the dimensions of national heartbeats are greater than village impulses, greater than city demands, greater than state dreams or ambitions. Therefore, we believe a nation's memorial should, like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, have a serenity, a nobility, a power that reflects the gods who inspired them and suggests the gods they have become."

Borglum soon embarked on a site-searching trip to find a grouping of rock massive enough to support a giant sculpture. He examined the Needles, as Robinson suggested, but found the rock too brittle for carving and the spires disproportionate to the human form. Next, Borglum and his party climbed Harney Peak, at 7,242 feet the highest point between the Rockies and the Swiss Alps. Before them, spread like a tablecloth over uneven ground, was an emerald carpet of pine rolling in the alpine breeze, under shadows of clouds racing to the east. Seventeen other peaks in this panorama exceeded 7,000 feet, and great granite outcroppings stood silently, awaiting the sculptor's chisel and the artist's eye.

"Here is the place!" Borglum exhorted. "American history shall march along that skyline."

 

Escaping Stone Mountain


Borglum left Rapid City with great enthusiasm for the new Rushmore project and promises of support from Norbeck and Robinson.  Reluctantly, he returned to Georgia to face the lingering problems of his Stone Mountain project.  By February 1925, the confrontation had peaked; the Stone Mountain Association's board dismissed the sculptor from the project and expressed its intention to hire another artist to complete the giant sculpture according to Borglum's models and drawings.

Borglum was incensed.  He rushed to Stone Mountain, ordered the destruction of his working studio models, then raced up the mountain and sent models of Lee's shoulders and Stonewall Jackson's head crashing to the base of the cliff.

What followed was a wild-goose chase by the Georgia police, who held a warrant for Borglum's arrest.  As they hightailed after him, according to Borglum, the deputies even took shots at his fleeing escape vehicle.  In any event, while leading newspapers traded jabs over the affair, Borglum reached safe haven in Nort hCarolina.

 

New Horizons


Humiliated yet unrepentant over the Confederate fiasco, Borglum shifted his focus to the Black Hills.  There, in his absence, Senator Norbeck and Congressman William Williamson had easily secured federal legislation to allow a mountain carving in Harney National Forest.  A similar bill in the South Dakota Legislature passed in 1925.

In August, Borglum was back in the Black Hills to pinpoint the site of his epic sculpture.  From his earlier tour, he recalled a granite outcropping that appeared to have sufficient mass to support the carving that only now was taking shape in his mind.  The craggy, pine-clad cliff known as Mount Rushmore, near the isolated mining town of Keystone, offered excellent possibilities.  It had a southeastern exposure, giving it direct sunlight most of the day, and was made of sound granite relatively free from fracture.

After establishing a base camp, Borglum spent the next several days carefully exploring the crevices and sampling the rock of Mount Rushmore.  With each test, he reconfirmed that he had found his mountain.

 

The Waiting Game


Months passed as supporters of the Rushmore project scrambled for funding.  Meanwhile, early-day environmentalists suggested the project would end up simply defacing a mountainside.  Others asked how a mortal sculptor could hope to improve on what a higher authority had designed.

Still, most people didn't care either way.  Life in South Dakota was rolling along to the agrarian rhythms that still set the pace today.  Residents were too busy building businesses and tending their farms and ranches in 1925 to notice the hullabaloo surrounding some fancy eastern sculptor who hoped to put a few faces on a mountain.  No road even traveled near the cliff that Borglum planned to carve, so few people had ever seen it.  As the calendars changed to 1926, most South Dakotans dismissed the whole affair.  If not for the heat and humidity of summer in Washington, D.C., it is likely that Mount Rushmore would have remained little more than a fanciful conception.

 

Presidential Attention


In the spring of 1927, President Calvin Coolidge decided to spend his three-week summer holiday in the Black Hills.

State officials immediately began preparing for the visit by remodeling the rustic State Game Lodge in Custer State Park, which was selected to be Coolidge's "summer White House."  The high school in Rapid City would serve as the summer capital.

 

The Dedication


On June 15, 1927, Senator Norbeck and 10,000 South Dakotans warmly greeted President and Mrs. Coolidge, their two white collie dogs, and the First Lady's pet raccoon, Rebecca, as they stepped from the train at the Chicago & Northwestern Depot in Rapid City.  They were soon settled comfortably into the Game Lodge and the Dakotan way of life.  Coolidge himself relished the climate, felt healthier, and took up trout fishing - and the three-week visit turned into a three-month stay.

Coolidge couldn't have known that his fishing skills were greatly enhanced behind the scenes by park officials.  Before the president's arrival, chicken wire was stretched across the creek upstream and downstream from the president's quarters at the Game Lodge.  Lunker trout from a nearby fish hatchery were trucked in nightly under the cover of darkness - so many that Coolidge couldn't help but fill his creel as he "learned to fish."

This extended vacation allowed Borglum and Norbeck enough time to convince Coolidge to participate in the formal dedication of Mount Rushmore.  On August 10, the president rode horseback to the mountain with his entourage, sporting cowboy boots and a 10-gallon hat given to him by local residents.

"We have come here to dedicate a cornerstone laid by the hand of the Almighty," Coolidge told the crowd of 1,000 South Dakotans gathered in the trees and standing on rocks.  In an impassioned speech by a man not known for his passion, Coolidge became the first to refer to Mount Rushmore as a "national shrine," then pledged federal support for the project.

After listening with satisfaction to the president's remarks, the 60-year-old Borglum climbed to the mountain's craggy summit and - as the president and the audience watched - symbolically drilled six holes to mark the commencement of carving.  The Mount Rushmore dream would embrace the remaining 14 years of his life and leave a monument unlike any other, a memorial not just to four men but to the American ideals and aspirations they did so much to shape.

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$990,000 was needed to complete the Rushmore Memorial. $836.000 was allotted by the Federal Government. The rest came from school children who donated pennies, nickels and dimes and by Borgum who mortgaged his own property and even was a pitchman on the radio for Studebaker cars and Bromo-Seltzer. The artist received $170,000 for the 14 years he spent on the project-a little more than $12,000 a year. His detractors called the project more an engineering feat than art.  What do you think?

 

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Governor Berry, President Roosevelt and Borglum 1936

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John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum was born in St. Charles,Idaho, on March 25, 1867.  He began painting at an early age, and in his early twenties sales of his works enabled him to study art in France for several years.  It was there, in 1890, that he began to sculpt.  His final paintings were completed in 1903, and from that time on he worked only as a sculptor.  His fame grew, as did the size of his works. In 1915 he was asked by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to carve a head of Gen. Robert E. Lee on Stone Mountain in Georgia. Work did not begin until 1923, but some demands made by Borglum soon led to his dismissal.  The invitation to the Black Hills presented him with an opportunity to create a monument whose dimensions would be "determined by the importance to civilization of the events commemorated".  For this purpose a location other than the Needles was needed.  After much searching Borglum selected Mount Rushmore because:

 

 

Model to Masterpiece

The Models Of Mount Rushmore

 

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Statue in sculptor Gutzon Borglum's studio -- used as a model

Borglum created a model of the four presidents on a 1-to-12-inch scale, meaning an inch on the model represented a foot on the cliff.  This model has been preserved for viewing at the Sculptor's Studio.  To transfer measurements from the model to the mountain, workers determined where the top of the head would be, then found the corresponding point on the model.

A protractor was mounted horizontally on top of the model's head.  At the center mark, a pivot was placed with an attached metal rod that extended outward across the arc of measurement and over the subject's face.  A similar, albeit 12 times larger, apparatus was placed on the mountain.  By attaching a plumb bob to the end of the metal rod on the model, it was relatively simple to determine the horizontal distance in inches from any point on the string to the nearest point on the model.  By using the larger apparatus on the mountain and substituting feet for inches, workers could quickly determine the amount of rock that needed to be removed.

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Detail of how the eyes are carved.

 When visiting Mount Rushmore pay close attention to the President's eyes.  One can clearly see the pupils of the presidents staring off.  Some people even feel like they are being watched!  This effect was accomplished by carefully hollowing out the area where the pupils are, and taking advantage of the natural light to cast shadows within the hollows to create the pupil like effect.

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Statue of Washington in sculptor Gutzon Borglum's studio -- used as a mode

When the powdermen were finished roughing out the portrait, drillers used the same measuring system and air-powered tools to drill closely spaced holes to exacting depths, a process known as "honeycombing."  The rock between these holes was then broken away using chisels and hammers.  The final process, known as "bumping," used a pneumatic drill and a special bit to leave the finished surface as smooth as a concrete sidewalk.

 A skilled driller could make $1.25 per hour on the project, better than the mines were paying.  But Borglum's crew often had to endure extended layoffs due to a lack of funds and harsh winter weather.  When work would temporarily close down, the men found other jobs.  Then, when warm spring winds melted the snow, or a philanthropist made a contribution, they'd report back to the mountain, eager to get back to work on their adopted dream.

As his dream neared its completion, Borglum's biggest fear was leaving a mystery for future generations.  In 1938, Borglum began carving a giant vault in the canyon wall directly behind Mount Rushmore.  Into this great hall, he planned to place records of the memorial, of Western civilization, of individual liberty and freedom.  But Borglum's death and the country's entry into World War II intervened, and the Hall of Records was never completed.

Yet the making of Rushmore carried on behind the scenes.  Borglum's son, Lincoln, spent another seven months after his father's deat fining the monument to its current state.

Today, the dream lives on as holders of the vision bring hope and support to this truly American icon.

 

 

The Men and The Mountain

 

Gutzon Borglum complained a lot about the men who worked with him on Mount Rushmore, about how he wasn't given men who knew how to carve a mountain.  Borglum's son Lincoln had artistic talent, as did Bill Tallman and Korczak Ziolkowski, two assistants to Borglum who came from back East.  But where in South Dakota, Borglum wondered, do you find a whole crew of workmen who know how to carve a mountain into work of art?

At first, it was just a job, a way to put food on the table.  On a good week, when the snow didn't blow, the sun didn't scorch, and the wind didn't whistle, there might even be enough change left over for a cold brew at the neighborhood tavern.

But as the four faces of freedom gradually emerged from the enduring granite, the men who helped carve the memorial began to share the driven sculptor's dream.  These drill-dusty, unemployed miners, who originally had sought only a paycheck in the heart of the Great Depression, became caught up in a challenge that would produce a national treasure.

Working on Rushmore meant finding the right point to carve on a cliff face, blasting stone with dynamite, working with jackhammers and chisels and other equipment that weighed half as much as you did -- all while your posterior was literally in a sling, hanging over the side of a mountain.  The project required mechanics and powdermen, and men who understood rock, mostly miners.  The workmen had colorful names: John Arthur "Whiskey Art" Johnson, Lloyd "Lively" Virtue, Jack "Palooka" Payne, Otto "Red" Anderson, Alton "Hoot" Leach, and the Peterson brothers, Merle and "Howdy" (Howard).  These were tough men whose weekends were full of drinking (moonshine during Prohibition) and fighting -- and playing baseball.

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In fact, the Rushmore Memorial baseball team did pretty well against company teams from larger towns.  In 1939, the year of Rushmore's largest budget, Merle Peterson helped Lincoln Borglum hire a bigger crew by recruiting good ballplayers.  That year the Rushmore team represented the Black Hills in the State Championships, and made it to the semifinals.

Gutzon Borglum was proud of the baseball team, too, but he was an aloof and less approachable manager than his son Lincoln.  Plus, he had a temper.  Merle Peterson was fired eight times, which he thought was a record for the work crew.  They couldn't compete, though, with Borglum's secretary Jean Peters, who lost track after her tenth firing, but thought the total was closer to 17.  Still, Borglum had the respect of the men who worked with him.  Red Anderson recalled his first meeting with Borglum: "He was working on the models of Rushmore, and the first thing that struck me was how lively the guy was.  The models were maybe ten feet high and he had to work on 'em from a ladder.  But when he came down off that ladder he didn't climb down -- he jumped.

"He wasn't the sort of guy you'd 'howdy' and start talking to.  You waited until he started talking to you. ..We had ups and downs, but we were always friends.  He was a bear to get along with sometimes, and temperamental as the very devil, but underneath it all he was really a good man and a great man.  I always respected him, and I think he always respected me."

One cold morning the crew was huddled in one of the mountaintop shacks warming up with some coffee when Borglum burst in the door. He thundered, "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON AROUND HERE?"  When one of the laborers managed to say that they were just having some coffee, Borglum turned to his handyman and said "See to it that at about ten o'clock every morning we get some doughnuts and hot coffee up here for these bums!"  According to local legend, that was how the coffee break was born.

The work on the mountain was hard, but the men had their fun.  Their favorite hazing joke was to let out a little extra slack on the new guy's safety cable to drop him a few feet.  There were accidents, too, but none fatal.  The first big dynamite blast shot a boulder into the cable that brought supplies up the mountain.  Years later, when the cable was adapted to carry men, a cable snapped and workers had to use the hand safety brake to lower themselves down again.  Then one of the workmen pulled too hard on the brake chain and broke it.  The car sped down the cable and a few men were thrown when it hit the base station.  Amazingly, only one man was hospitalized, and he recovered completely.

Another time, lightning caused a surge of electricity to prematurely detonate the dynamite charges that were being placed on the mountain.  Ernest "Bill" Reynolds was on the cliff face in and thrown out into space by the blast.  His cable then swung him back into the hill. Luckily, his injuries amounted to just bruises and scratches and a temporarily blown eardrum.

A story is told of a bizarre accident which occurred one day when Howdy Peterson was "blowing off" another workman.  At the end of the workday, compressed air was used to remove the rock dust that had accumulated all over the workmen's clothes and hair.  Howdy was holding onto the hose when another fellow "came by and he gave me a kick.  Well, in return I reached out and speared him in the butt with that air hose.  And, why, I just blowed him up tighter'n a drum!  I sure didn't mean to.  It was a freak thing.  How you could hit a guy that square-on I don't know, but it happened. ... Scared?  Man oh man!  I was never so scared in my life!"

Red Anderson was a witness:

"When that hose connected you could just see [his] belly swell up.  He yelled, 'My God, Howdy!  You've killed me!'  Then he started passing the air, and when he did he passed some blood, too.  That really scared him, and us too!"

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The victim had been treated for abdominal cancer the year before and when his doctor examined him, he was surprised to announce that the air had loosened the abdominal adhesions that were bothering him.

The dust that was blown off the clothes wasn't strictly an external problem, though.  It got in their lungs.  James Champion, Hoot Leach, and Lincoln Borglum were among those whose lungs were permanently scarred by the granite dust of Rushmore.  But work on the Hall of Records, a time-capsule-like vault to hold historic records situated on the back of Rushmore, was stopped not because of the dangers of kicking up so much dust in an enclosed space, but because of lack of funds.

The men made good money, but the money often ran out.  Every year, there would be occasional shutdowns due to lack of funds, and sometimes the season ended in the fall with next to no money left in the Rushmore account, but as a rule, work was curtailed due to inclement weather.  To their credit, when work on the mountain started again the next year, they would all quit their current jobs to be back on the Monument.  The motivation to return was, in part, the pay; in part it was the camaraderie that developed; and eventually, it was the art itself.  At the finishing stage of the sculpture, Borglum would invite the carvers to feel the surface of his models with their fingertips while their eyes were closed.  "It was absolutely astonishing how much it helped and how much your fingers alone could tell you," recalled Red Anderson.  "More and more we sensed that we were creating a truly great thing, and after a while all of us old hands became truly dedicated to it and determined to stick to it."  Astonishing, too, how these miners could translate the models into a monument on living stone.  Apparently Borglum had found the men who were capable of carving a mountain into art.

Amazingly, there were no deaths and only a couple of injuries during the entire period of carving at Mount Rushmore. This is a remarkable safety record considering the workers regularly used dynamite and heavy equipment.


 

Carving the Mountain

The Carving Of  Mount Rushmore

 

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Work on the mountain began August 10, 1927, the same day President Calvin Coolidge officially dedicated Mount Rushmore as a national memorial.  Fourteen years were needed to bring the sculpture to its present appearance, but because of delays caused by lack of funds and bad weather only 6½ years were actually spent in carving.

To say that Mount Rushmore was "carved" is to use a convenient figure of speech.  Very few conventional sculpturing methods were employed in what was actually "a unique engineering accomplishment".  Gutzon Borglum used the engineering techniques at Mount Rushmore that he had developed during his work on Stone Mountain.  He first designed a grouping of the four Presidents to conform to the mountain's granite cap, but deep cracks and fissures' later discovered in the rock, required nine changes in the design.   Five-foot models of each figure guided the workmen on the mountain. Measurements were taken from the models with a horizontal bar and plumb bob, enlarged 12 times, and transferred to the mountain.  After a reference point, such as the tip of a nose, was located, excess rock could be removed with dynamite, often to within three or four inches of the finished surface.  Some 450,000 tons of rock were removed in this manner.

Gutzon Borglum constantly complained that he had to use miners to carve his masterpiece, rather than artists.  However, the only experience any living person had with carving mountains into art was Borglum himself, at Stone Mountain in Georgia.  Although he did not complete that project, a number of techniques for sculpting Mount Rushmore were developed there.

In the six and a half years of work that occurred on and off between 1927 and 1941, Borglum employed almost 400 local miners.  Some built roads, constructed buildings, ran the hoist house, generated power, took measurements, or sharpened thousands of bits for the pneumatic drills.  Others set dynamite charges or completed delicate finishing work on the sculpture.  Whatever their job, those alive today speak proudly of their work.

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"I put the curl in Lincoln's beard, the part in Teddy's hair, and the twinkle in Washington's eye," says driller Norman "Happy" Anderson.  "It still gives me a thrill to look at it."

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The infrastructure needed to get to the top of mountain included stairs and a tramway.  The stairway had 506 steps and 45 ramps -- the equivalent of a forty-story building.  The tramway was originally meant just for transporting tools and supplies, leading from a lower loading house up to an A-framed structure on the top of the hill.  Later, to make it safe to carry men, Park Service engineer Julian Spotts strengthened the A-frame and equipped the tramcar with an emergency brake.

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Stone Mountain relief

The workers were expected to be at the top of the mountain by 7 a.m. in the summer, or 7:30 in fall and winter.  Once up top, men would be fitted into leather harnesses designed by Borglum himself, and lowered down the face of the mountain by means of cables attached to hand-cranked winches.  Each man would have to walk up or down the face in coordination with the winch operator or else he would be dragged along the mountain face.  To help coordinate this vertical movement between the man on the rock and the winch operator, a "call-boy" was positioned where he could see both men and relay the necessary information.

At Stone Mountain, the carving was a shallow relief (although up to three to five feet deep in places) and so a powerful slide projector was developed to transfer an image to the stone.  Unfortunately, this method failed, and it certainly never would have worked at Rushmore.  To enlarge a three-dimensional model onto a mountain, Borglum devised a simple system, which had been used in ancient Greece, consisting of an angle and two measurements.  On the top of the model head he created in the studio, and on the head to be carved on the mountain, a vertical axis was placed.  The apparatus looked like a giant propeller atop each head.  By measuring the angle, the distance away from the axis, and the distance down from the top, workers called "pointers" could find the spot on the mountain where drilling or blasting would be done, and then paint instructions on the rock for the drillers to follow.  To make things easier, Borglum's models were proportioned 1:12 so that inch measurements on the models could be easily converted to feet.

As at Stone Mountain, dynamite was used to blast the rock into a general shape.  To control the blasting, sticks of dynamite would be cut down to make smaller charges, up to 70 for one detonation.  The drill holes would be filled with these caps and twice a day, at lunch and 4 o'clock (the end of the workday), when all the workmen were off the face of Rushmore, the dynamite was detonated.

   Among the most highly skilled workers were those using dynamite to blast rock from the mountain. Using techniques he developed at Stone Mountain, and relying on skills his crew had acquired in mining, Borglum used dynamite in an innovative and unprecedented way to remove large amounts of rock quickly and relatively inexpensively. His powder-men became so skilled that they could blast to within four inches of the finished surface and grade the contours of the lips, nose, cheeks, neck, and brow. In fact, 90 percent of the 450,000 tons of granite removed from the mountain were taken out with dynamite.

The drillers then removed stone to within six inches of the finished surfaces.  The drillers carried Chicago-Pneumatic jackhammers, weighing over 75 pounds, with a hose for the compressed air powering the drill.  These were not the easiest tools to handle -- especially when hanging in a harness on the side of a mountain.  To position the drills correctly, the workers would keep their heels together and toes apart, and rest the drill bit in the V shape of their feet.  Drilling horizontally, however, merely enforced Newton's law: an equal and opposite force swung the men away from the rock.  In that case, they would first drill two holes at an angle, attach a chain to those holes using steel pins, and then brace themselves against that chain as they drilled.  The drill bits didn't last long under these conditions; every few hours, a worker called a "steel nipper" would climb down in a harness to trade the dull bits with fresh ones.

Figure of Lincoln 1937 National Park Service

Then the carvers would take over.  By drilling a series of shallow holes in a closely-spaced grid, and then removing these grids by drilling obliquely -- a process they called "honeycombing" -- the carvers got very close to finished surface.  The carvers did the final finishing using smaller handheld pneumatic hammers.  The hammers were used to first remove the roughness left by the honeycombs, and then to define nuanced features -- wrinkles or pits in the skin -- as directed by Gutzon or Lincoln Borglum.

At the end of the day, the men would be covered from head to toe in granite dust.  Compressed air hoses would be used to "blow off" as much of the dust as possible -- but there was always more.

Drillers, suspended over the face of the mountain in "swing seats" used jack hammers to honeycomb the surface with shallow holes at intervals of about three inches.  The remaining rock was wedged off with a small drill, or a hammer and wedging tool.  Finally the sculpture was smoothed with a small air hammer in a process known as "bumping."

In the early years private donations supported the project, but when more funds were required the Federal Government assumed full financial responsibility.  Federal appropriations accounted for $836,000 of the $990,000 spent on the memorial between 1927 and 1941.  In March of the latter year Gutzon Borglum died.  His son Lincoln, who had worked closely with his father on the monument, continued the project until funds ran outlater the same year.  Since then no additional carving has been done,  nor is any further work on the memorial planned.

 

 

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