Mount Rushmore, located in South Dakota, is possibly one of the most famous landmarks in the world.
The four Presidents’ heads have made history with their iconic carvings, but who decided to create this monumental work and why?
Here are 17 mind-blowing facts about Mount Rushmore that you should know.
Dynamite was used to remove the excess rock.
When you want to sculpt into a rock face, hammers and chisels will take you a long time.
A total of 90% of the granite that needed removing was done by dynamite.
That might seem a bit extreme, but dynamite was the most effective and quickest way to get rid of unwanted granite.
Gutzon Borglum, the head sculptor, decided to get a munitions expert on the team to help plan where the dynamite should be placed.
The expert marked out where to drill holes for the explosives to be placed. The dynamite was always set off when the workers were off-site.
Around 450,000 tonnes of granite needed to be removed.
Scaffolding was set up for workers to carve the sculpture into the rock face. Hoists were set up with chairs attached to a 3/8 inch (0.95 cm) steel cable from which the workers would be lowered to chisel and carve out the faces.
Jackhammers, chisels, dynamite, and drills were carried with them so they could use whichever method was necessary for the part they were working on.
If the sculptures were full-bodied, instead of just heads, the Presidents would stand 465 feet (141 meters) tall!
There are four Presidents carved into Mount Rushmore.
Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln were chosen as they all played essential parts in turning the USA into what it is today.
As the first President of the United States, George Washington was chosen because of his fight for American Independence in the Revolutionary War.
Thomas Jefferson was a firm believer in democracy, and this was of significant importance in creating America, while Theodore Roosevelt was selected as he was seen as a world leader and a highly influential President.
The fourth and final President, Abraham Lincoln, was chosen for his part in abolishing slavery in the United States.
Mount Rushmore took 14 years to sculpt.
The project was approved in March 1925, but work didn’t begin until October 1927. Because the sculptures would sit 60 feet (18.28 meters) high, much preparation was needed to start construction.
The task was epic, and sculptor Gutzon Borglum knew it would take many years due to the scale.
The main reason why the project finished 14 years after construction in 1941 was because of funding issues.
A lack of funding meant that added features could not be done, so the project was concluded once the heads were complete.
Various collectible memorabilia has been created for Mount Rushmore.
To commemorate the birthdays of Mount Rushmore, the US Post Office made one-off stamps to celebrate 25 years since the project was started on August 11, 1952.
Another specialized stamp was released in 1974 to commemorate 25 years since the completion of the project.
To mark the 50th anniversary in 1991, the United States Mint released a silver dollar.
The original artist was Gutzon Borglum.
Borglum studied in Paris to become a sculptor and was the first American sculptor to have a piece of work bought by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
In an interview in 1908, he expressed that “monuments that we have built, are not our own.” He explained that they are to memorialize American achievements.
He was chosen for the project as he was made famous for his work on Stone Mountain.
Although this was an uncompleted project, it was a remarkable attempt that built his name and reputation.
Mount Rushmore underwent many design changes.
The design concept went through a total of nine different changes.
Borglum’s first design included text below the face sculptures. The text was going to contain a brief explanation of American history. The idea was quickly removed due to funding issues but also because it would be challenging to condense important information and for people to still be able to read it.
Some of the original mock-ups showed the Presidents from the waist up, but again due to funding issues, the focus turned to just carving their heads.
Another concept was to have a document room behind Lincoln’s head, from which visitors could enter from a carved staircase, but you guessed it, it was cut due to a lack of funds.
The project was the brainchild of Doane Robinson.
Jonah LeRoy Doane Robinson was the state historian and the man behind the great idea of Mount Rushmore.
The original idea behind the monument was to bring tourism to the area, so Robinson approached the US senator from South Dakota with the concept.
The site would be situated 5,725 feet (1,744 meters) above sea level and would be located in the Black Hills.
In 1929 Congress authorized funding for the project, and as a result, President Calvin Coolidge approved it.
The project was originally going to be sculpted into Needles Mountain, but Borglum refused because the quality of granite on this mountain face was poor compared to what is now Mount Rushmore.
The total cost of the project was $989,992.
Rushmore Peak was named after Charles Rushmore.
You might think that the name of such an important mountain had a lot of thought put into it, but it turns out it was pretty simple.
Charles Rushmore was an attorney from New York who traveled to the area of the Black Hills for business around 1884. Upon his arrival, he asked what the peak was named.
According to a local man, the peak had no name, so he suggested that it was named on the spot after himself.
No one died during the building works.
During the project, there were no deaths, which is quite impressive considering how much dynamite was used!
Sadly, many workers died in the coming years, mainly from a lung condition called silicosis. This was because no masks were given to workers, and with the endless dust created by carving and explosions, workers inhaled a lot.
Nick Clifford, the last remaining carver who was part of the original build, died at age 98 in 2019.
There is a secret room inside Mount Rushmore.
As the original plans stated, a special document room was to be built inside one of the heads.
During the build, this didn’t happen, primarily due to funding cuts, and all that was built was a 70 feet (21.3 meter) tunnel built from 1938-1939.
Almost sixty years later, a collection of records were placed at the entrance to the Hall of Records. This included a titanium vault containing a teak box with records documenting the original build.
The box is covered by a granite slab engraved with Borglum’s following quote:
“Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and rain alone shall wear them away.”
Mount Rushmore is iconic in the USA.
Mount Rushmore is one of the most iconic landmarks in the USA; therefore, it has become a common feature within popular culture.
It has appeared in many movies over decades, most commonly as a place of top-secret information or as a secret base.
The movie Team America: World Police, released in 2004, used Mount Rushmore as the team’s base.
In 2007 the film National Treasure: Book of Secrets used the location as the focal point of the movie plot, unraveling the secret gold city that lay beneath it.
The sculptor died before the project was finished.
Unfortunately, in March 1941, Borglum died during the construction of Mount Rushmore. Luckily the President’s faces were mostly completed by then, so Borglum’s son Lincoln was able to see the project to completion.
Lincoln Borglum took over as head of the construction site and was to continue as planned, but there was a lack of funding for the project to continue alongside the original plans.
As a result, Lincoln decided to leave the monument as it was when his father passed away, so construction ceased on October 31, 1941.
It was originally known as The Six Grandfathers.
The area in which Mount Rushmore lies belongs to the Lakota Tribe.
This ancient Native American site had many names, such as Slaughterhouse Peak and Cougar Mountain, but it is known to most people simply as Mount Rushmore.
The area was once called and is still referred to by Native Americans as The Six Grandfathers. The Six Grandfathers and the Paha Sapa (the Black Hills) formed over 65 million years ago, making them some of the oldest mountain formations in the world.
In 1804 the area was first discovered by white Americans while they were surveying the area.
The US government deemed the area “unfit for civilization,” so it was designated as a “permanent Indian country.” Maps created at this time called this area “The Great American Desert.”
Mount Rushmore lies on stolen land.
In 1868 the Treaty of Fort Laramie gave the Black Hills to the local Native Americans, the Lakota tribe. But after the Great Sioux War in 1876, the land was taken from them by the United States.
This meant that the land could be used to build the monument of Mount Rushmore as they now “owned” the rights to the land.
In 1971 the American Indian Movement led a demonstration and claimed the mountain back and renamed it “Mount Crazy Horse.”
John Fire Lame Deer, a Lakota holy man, climbed to the top of the monument and placed a sacred staff from which he said hung a symbolic shroud that covered the Presidents’ faces.
When Lame Deer placed the staff, he explained the shroud “which shall remain dirty until the treaties concerning the Black Hills are fulfilled.”
The weather is destroying the monument.
Naturally, over time things will erode due to weathering. When Borglum was designing the monument, he accounted for this by covering the sculptures with a waterproof coating.
Borglum made a sealant using linseed oil, granite dust, and white lead, but unfortunately, the weatherproof coating hasn’t held up so well.
As a result, the sculptures are painted with fresh sealant regularly, with a silicone-based sealant mixed with granite dust used as the more modern replacement.
There are more than two million visitors annually.
The iconic monument has continued to draw tourists from around the globe.
In 1957 a visitor’s center was completed for the monument as part of Mission 66, a scheme set up by the National Park Service to improve the visitor experience.
In 1941, its first year of completion, there were 393,000 visitors; by 1959, Mount Rushmore regularly saw more than a million visitors yearly.
The park reached over two million visitors annually for the first time in 2009, and it has remained consistent since and is still on the rise.
Mount Rushmore, one of the world’s most famous landmarks, is a testament to human determination and ingenuity.
If you ever have the chance to visit this magnificent monument, check out the entrance carved for the Hall of Documents and marvel at this iconic symbol of American history and democracy.