Important Facts about Mount Rushmore: History, Location & Creation of the National Monument


Mount Rushmore, a world-famous sculpture carved on the Black Hills of the Western Region of South Dakota, is an all granite sculpture with faces of four famous Presidents of United States carved on it. From left to right the names of presidents carved out in the monument are – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The monument was built to celebrate 150 years of history of the United States of America. It is located in South Dakota and is managed by the national park service. Millions of people visit the monument every year.

History of the Sculpture

Mount Rushmore is the brain-child of Doane Robinson, a state historian of the Historical Society. Doane wanted to construct something in South Dakota that would improve the economic condition of the region. Doane proposed building a monument on the granite rocks of the Black Hills. Once the project was passed, Doane appointed Gutzon Borglum, a famous American artist and sculpture, to make a monument on the Black hills. Borglum chose Mount Rushmore for the sculpture as it was the only cliff which was easily accessible and where the construction work could be carried out conveniently.

Borglum decided to sculpt two of the most famous presidents of United States of America – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Later on, the names of Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt were also added. It was initially decided that the sculptures of the presidents would be made up to the waists, but due to lack of time and money only the heads could be sculpted.

Facts and Figures

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It took almost 15 years to complete this great sculpture. Almost 400 people worked simultaneously on the project. Each of the sculpted heads on the monument is 60 feet in length from top to bottom. The monument is almost 5,500 feet above the sea level. Around $250,000 was funded for the project, but it took around $990,000 to complete the whole sculpture. The construction work began in the 1927 and ended in 1941. The whole of Mount Rushmore lies over an area of 1278 acres and is under the observation and maintenance of the National Park Authority.

How it Was Built

It is not easy to carve a sculpture on the side of a hill, especially one of such great height. The feat required great skills, craftsmanship, and expertise. First, the mountain had to be cleared in order to start the sculpting work. Workers used dynamite and mines to clear off the huge rocks. Rock climbers and sculptors then used jack-hammers and chisels for the sculpting process. A staircase was made from the bottom up to the peak of the mountain, and ropes were hung along the sides for safety. Each of the workers and sculptors also used harnesses along with ropes. Although the project was dangerous, no lives were lost throughout the 14 year-long construction period.

About 800 million pounds of rocks were excavated for the sculpture. In order to make the faces more realistic the iris of the eyes were holed and a specially designed piece of granite was kept in the center for light reflection.

They started with the sculpting of George Washington’s head. Due to the poor economic condition of the country it took almost seven years for it to get completed. Thomas Jefferson’s head, which is on the right of George Washington, was originally on the left. When they had completed about half of the project, Borglum had to remove it because of the inferior quality of rock. The construction work for Thomas Jefferson’s head then again began on the right hand side.

It is said that Abraham Lincoln’s head was the most difficult due to its beard. However, it got completed on the rightmost region of the cliff. The last head to be sculpted was Theodore Roosevelt. It is the deepest sculpted head of the four, mainly because of the unavailability of the right kind of rock for starting the sculpting work.

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Mount Rushmore is a tribute to four great presidents of the United States of America. It also stands as a master-piece of exclusive engineering skills and expertise. More than two million people visit Mount Rushmore every year for its sheer brilliance. The monument is a famous landmark not only for America but for the whole world.