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6.30.2006 - 26 comments 

I took this shot a couple of years ago. It was dusk at the Monument and I liked the way the light hit the monument. It somehow seemed like an appropriate post for the long weekend celebration of the USA's Independence Day.

The monument itself is hard to comprehend, even when you are standing there looking directly at it. I was on one of the trails that are below it at the time of this shot.

The monumnet is carved into the southeast face of a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota with the faces of four presidents, as a memorial to American history. The faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln look down from their stoney heights and remind everyone that even the impossible is possible.

South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson conceived the idea in 1923 to attract more people to the Black Hills of South Dakota with colossal carvings of western heroes. Robinson gained support from major players in South Dakota and Washington DC with the help of Senator Peter Norbeck and Congressman William Williamson.

Congress passed legislation authorizing the mountain carving in Harney National Forest Preserve (now Black Hills National Forest). After trying to get another sculptor to do the work, Robinson contacted Gutzon Borglum.

Borglum, who agreed to come out to the Black Hills in 1924 to look at the area and see if the carving was possible. The plan was to carve the Needles area into tall granite figures. When Borglum inspected the Needles, he found them to be too thin and weathered to support sculpture on a grand scale. Borglum and the other carving supporters needed to find a new place to carve or abandon the project. It was then they were told about Mount Rushmore.

When Borglum saw the mountain he pointed to it and said, "America will march along that skyline." A place had been found to do their carving. Borglum liked Mount Rushmore because it faced southeast which meant it would receive good light throughout most of the day. It was the highest peak in the immediate vicinity, and the granite was very resistant, eroding one inch every 10,000 years. Borglum told Robinson they needed subjects of a national focus. Robinson agreed and Borglum selected George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

Once they had a carving plan and a location was set, the work could begin. Borglum created a plaster model from which measurements were taken using the pointing system. On October 4, 1927 the first actual work of carving began. Dynamite was used to remove rock from the mountain until there was only a thin, three to six inch layer of granite left. This final layer of granite was removed by a process called "honeycombing". Then the surface was worked smooth with a bumper tool. This left the faces as smooth as a sidewalk.

If you want to know how Mount Rushmore got its name; “It’s never had any but it has now-we’ll call the damn thing Rushmore,” the guide, William Challis replied. In the 1880’s Keystone was a booming mining town. James Wilson was a New York mining promoter examining mining claims in the area. Wilson hired Charles E. Rushmore, a young New York attorney, to check on mining titles. Mr. Rushmore arrived in the area in 1885 representing the Harney Peak Consolidated Tin Company, LTD. , located at Pine Camp just north of an “unnamed” mountain. Out traveling to examine claims, Rushmore passed by the unnamed mountain. He asked his guide, William Challis, “What is the name of that mountain?” Challis jestingly replied in his now famous quote.

Later, Charles Rushmore donated $5,000 toward the sculpting of “Mount Rushmore.” In June, 1930 the United States Board of Geographic Names officially recognized Mount Rushmore.
If you've never been there, I strongly suggest that you make the trip. Custer National Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota are also worth the effort.

You can even see the ongoing work of the memorial to Crazy Horse that has been a family effort of the guy who started it some decades ago. It will give you a perspective on what it must have been like to watch Mount Rushmore being built. May you all enjoy this holiday and especially the freedoms that this country allows us all to enjoy. FREEDOM IS NOT FREE! Posted by Picasa