Many Faces of Mount Rushmore

Our first impression of Mount Rushmore was how amazing it is to see the faces of 4 of our most beloved Presidents carved into the side of a mountain! And then you learn about the history, the artist and what they had to do to make it happen and you are in awe!


Entering the Grand View Terrace are columns with four State flags on each and the dates each state was admitted into the Union. With our Presidents looking over us.


The handsomely carved faces of four great men, forever carved into the granite side of a mountain. But who was the person behind this National Landmark?


Gutzon Borglum was the artist with a vision to create this memorial to our Presidents. Quite a man with quite a story! The son of Danish-American immigrants, Gutzon Borglum was born in 1867 in St. Charles in what was then Idaho Territory. His training began in Paris at the Académie Julian, where he came to know Auguste Rodin and was greatly influenced by Rodin. Picture Rodin’s “The Thinker” and you will see the influence Rodin had on Borglum.


Borglum had a fascination with gigantic scale and themes of heroic nationalism which suited his extroverted personality. His head of Abraham Lincoln, carved from a six-ton block of marble, was exhibited in Theodore Roosevelt’s White House.  Lincoln was Borglum’s favorite President and he named his son after Lincoln. The mask of Lincoln created by the sculptor was used as the prototype for the carving on Rushmore.


In 1908, Borglum won a competition for a statue of the Civil War General Philip Sheridan to be placed in Sheridan Circle in Washington. D.C.  At the unveiling of the Sheridan statue, President Theodore Roosevelt, whom Borglum included later in the Mount Rushmore portrait group, declared that it was “first rate”. A critic wrote that “as a sculptor Gutzon Borglum was no longer a rumor, he was a fact.”

In 1915, he was approached by the United Daughters of the Confederacy with a project for sculpting a 20-foot (6 m) high bust of General Robert E. Lee on the mountain’s 800-foot rock face. Borglum accepted, but told the committee, “Ladies, a twenty foot head of Lee on that mountainside would look like a postage stamp on a barn door. Practice makes perfect when you are about to carve these men into stone.

Now it was time for what would be his biggest and most well known project, Mount Rushmore. His Mount Rushmore project, 1927–1941, was the brainchild of South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson. The initial pair of presidents, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were soon joined by Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Borglum would climb all over the mountain to determine the best angle for the features of each man. He advised the carvers on how to create the nuanced details that went into creating the faces we see today.

Climb a mere 250 stairs leading to the Up Close and Personal View! The Presidential Trail is a must! Drilling holes where the dynamite was placed to break off large pieces of stone can be seen along the top part of the trail. They let it fall to the ground and here it still lies.


When you visit Mount Rushmore, be sure to take the tour by one of the park rangers. Our Park Ranger Adrienne Jaeger gave us an animated and very interesting story about Gutzon Borglum’s life and path to being the artist and sculptor behind Mount Rushmore! It is a fascinating story of one man’s vision to create a lasting memorial to four of our greatest presidents.

Don’t Forget to have some Presidential Ice Cream, a Thomas Jefferson favorite. I never knew Jefferson created the first ice cream recipe in America! Taking in the view from the dinning area was like the scene from North By Northwest with Cart Grant, one of my favorite Hitchcock movies!


A profile view of George Washington is the last face we see as we leave the park. It was so amazing I could go back again and again!


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