Mount Rushmore National Memorial, a vast granite mountain in South Dakota's Black Hills, is one of the most well-visited places in the United States. Since it was built almost a century ago, this national landmark has won the hearts and minds of millions of visitors. Carved into the side of the mountain are the faces of four great American presidents, who were selected to be immortalized on the mountain due to their lasting impact on the United States.
The creation of Mount Rushmore was an arduous task undertaken by renowned artist Gutzon Borglum over 14 years. Borglum carved the faces of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln into the granite face of the mountain. He did this with a combination of hand drilling and dynamite.
The completed monument is a testament to American ingenuity, creativity, and perseverance. But who are these four men? Why were they chosen to be immortalized on this majestic monument? What are their legacies, and why are they essential to the American story? In this blog post, we'll learn more about the four men whose faces are on Mount Rushmore.
We'll examine their lives, legacies, and contributions to American history. We will also talk about how the monument was built, the arguments about it, and how it has changed American culture. So, come along with us on this trip as we learn about the exciting history of Mount Rushmore National Memorial and its lasting legacy.
So, Who is on Mount Rushmore?
The four figures depicted on Mount Rushmore are:
On February 22, 1732, George Washington was born. He grew up on his family's plantation in Virginia. During the Indian and French War, he was a colonel in the Virginia militia. Later, during the American Revolution, he was a crucial figure in the fight for independence and was in charge of the Continental Army.
After the war, he helped draft and ratify the United States Constitution and became the first President of the U.S., serving two consecutive terms. He established the new government's foundations, played a key role in building the country's economy, and pursued a policy of neutrality in foreign affairs.
Washington's legacy includes more than just his military and political accomplishments. It also has his honesty, his dedication to democracy, and his willingness to serve the greater good. He is often noted as the "Father of the Country."
On April 13, 1743, Thomas Jefferson was born in Virginia and was an exceptional student studying law at the prestigious College of William and Mary.
He is most well-known for drafting the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the United States a free and independent nation. Jefferson also served as the third President of the United States, oversaw the Louisiana Purchase, and commissioned the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
He was a key figure in shaping the principles of American democracy, supporting individual rights, limited government, and the separation of powers. Jefferson founded the University of Virginia and continues to be celebrated as one of the most influential figures in American history.
Theodore Roosevelt was a man of action and adventure, born in New York City on October 27, 1858. He was a reformer and advocated for workers' rights and big business regulation in the early years of his political career.
As a war hero, he organized the Rough Riders and led a charge in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Roosevelt's impact on American society continued after his presidency, advocating for conservation and establishing national parks and forests.
He was a prolific writer and speaker, and his ideas and philosophy continue to influence American politics and society today. He is often remembered as one of American history's most influential and dynamic presidents.
Abraham Lincoln was born in poverty in Kentucky in 1809 and received little formal education. He began his political career as an Illinois state legislator and later served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a member of the Whig Party.
In 1860, Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States, running on the Republican Party platform. His presidency was marked by the Civil War, during which he worked tirelessly to preserve the Union and end slavery.
He signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which declared enslaved people in Confederate territory "forever free." Lincoln's leadership was instrumental in ending slavery and preserving the Union, but he was tragically assassinated in 1865 by a Confederate sympathizer.
The creation of Mount Rushmore began in 1927 when sculptor Gutzon Borglum was commissioned to create a monument to honor America's history and culture. Borglum carved the faces of four prominent American presidents into the granite of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
Borglum was an experienced sculptor who had worked on several large-scale projects, including the Stone Mountain Memorial in Georgia. He believed that the task at Mount Rushmore would be his most outstanding achievement. Borglum and his team of workers used dynamite, jackhammers, and other tools to carve the faces of the presidents into the granite of the mountain. The process of creating Mount Rushmore was challenging and dangerous.
Workers had to climb the mountain to carve the faces, and ropes and cables often suspended them while they worked. Using dynamite also posed a risk; several workers were injured during construction. The carving of Mount Rushmore was also a controversial project. The Black Hills of South Dakota were sacred to the Lakota people, who had been displaced from their land by the United States government.
Many Native Americans saw the creation of Mount Rushmore as an affront to their culture and history. Despite these challenges, Borglum and his team persevered. The carving of the faces of the presidents took 14 years to complete, and Mount Rushmore was officially dedicated in 1941. Today, Mount Rushmore is just one of the most iconic landmarks in the U.S. and a testament to the steadfast perseverance and ingenuity of the American people.
Criticism and Controversies
Mount Rushmore, with its massive carved faces of four American presidents, has been a source of pride and controversy since its creation. Some criticisms and controversies related to the people depicted on Mount Rushmore include:
The treatment of Native Americans: The Black Hills of South Dakota, where Mount Rushmore is located, is considered sacred to the Lakota people. The U.S. government seized the land from the Lakota in violation of treaties and created Mount Rushmore on sacred ground. Some Native American groups see Mount Rushmore as a symbol of oppression and the erasure of their history and culture.
The legacy of slavery: Two of the presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were slave owners. Some critics argue that honoring slave owners perpetuates a system of racism and oppression and that the monument glorifies individuals who were complicit in the brutal treatment of enslaved people.
The environmental impact: The construction of Mount Rushmore had a significant effect on the surrounding environment, including removing large amounts of rock and altering the natural landscape. Some environmentalists argue that the monument is an example of human intrusion into nature and that the site should be restored to its former state.
Even though there are criticisms and arguments about the monument and its message, there are also reasons to support it and what it says. Supporters of Mount Rushmore argue that:
The monument celebrates American history and culture: Mount Rushmore is widely viewed as a symbol of American pride and patriotism. The monument commemorates the contributions of four presidents who played critical roles in shaping the country's history and identity.
The monument is a feat of engineering and artistry: Mount Rushmore is an impressive engineering and artistic achievement. The carving of the faces of the presidents into the granite of the mountain required a great deal of skill and perseverance.
The monument is a tourist attraction that boosts the local economy: Mount Rushmore is a major tourist destination that brings visitors to the area and generates revenue for local businesses.
Mount Rushmore is still a symbol of both the greatness and the flaws of the United States, so the debates about it are likely to go on.
Consult a South Dakotan Residency Expert
Despite these criticisms, the faces of Mount Rushmore continue to draw visitors from around the world and inspire awe and wonder in those who behold them. Ultimately, the monument serves as a testament to the rich and complex history of the U.S. and the ongoing struggle to reconcile the country's past with its present and future.
To learn more about this national memorial center, visit this iconic site. Mount Rushmore is open year-round except on Christmas Day (December 25).