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Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Information about Mount Rushmore, South DakotaMount Rushmore National Memorial, near Keystone, South Dakota, is a monumental granite sculpture by Gutzon Borglum (1867–1941), located within the United States Presidential Memorial that represents the first 150 years of the history of the United States of America with 60-foot (18 m) sculptures of the heads of former United States presidents (left to right): George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865). The entire memorial covers 1,278.45 acres (5.17 km2) and is 5,725 feet (1,745 m) above sea level. It is managed by the National Park Service, a bureau of the United States Department of the Interior. The memorial attracts approximately two million people annually.
HistoryOriginally known to the Lakota Sioux as Six Grandfathers, the mountain was renamed after Charles E. Rushmore, a prominent New York lawyer, during an expedition in 1885 (128 years ago). At first, the project of carving Rushmore was undertaken to increase tourism in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. After long negotiations involving a Congressional delegation and President Calvin Coolidge, the project received Congressional approval. The carving started in 1927 (86 years ago), and ended in 1941 (72 years ago) with some injuries and no fatalities.
As Six Grandfathers, the mountain was part of the route that Lakota leader Black Elk took in a spiritual journey that culminated at Harney Peak. Following a series of military campaigns from 1876 (137 years ago) to 1877 (136 years ago), the United States asserted control over the area, a claim that is still disputed based on the 1868 (145 years ago) Treaty of Fort Laramie (see Controversy below). Among white American settlers, the peak was known variously as Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain, and Keystone Cliffs. It was named Mount Rushmore during a prospecting expedition by Rushmore, David Swanzey (whose wife Carrie was the sister of author Laura Ingalls Wilder), and Bill Challis.
Historian Doane Robinson conceived the idea for Mount Rushmore in 1923 (90 years ago) to promote tourism in South Dakota. In 1924 (89 years ago), Robinson persuaded sculptor Gutzon Borglum to travel to the Black Hills region to ensure that the carving could be accomplished. Borglum had been involved in sculpting the Confederate Memorial Carving, a massive bas-relief memorial to Confederate leaders on Stone Mountain in Georgia, but was in disagreement with the officials there. The original plan was to perform the carvings in granite pillars known as the Needles. However, Borglum realized that the eroded Needles were too thin to support sculpting. He chose Mount Rushmore, a grander location, partly because it faced southeast and enjoyed maximum exposure to the sun. Borglum said upon seeing Mount Rushmore, "America will Mar. along that skyline." Congress authorized the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission on Mar. 3, 1925 (88 years ago). President Coolidge insisted that along with Washington, two Republicans and one Democrat be portrayed.
Between Oct. 4, 1927 (86 years ago), and Oct. 31, 1941 (72 years ago), Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers sculpted the colossal 60-foot (18 m) carvings of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to represent the first 150 years of American history. These presidents were selected by Borglum because of their role in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory. The image (wallpaper) of Thomas Jefferson was originally intended to appear in the area at Washington's right, but after the work there was begun, the rock was found to be unsuitable, so the work on the Jefferson figure was dynamited, and a new figure was sculpted to Washington's left.
In 1933 (80 years ago), the National Park Service took Mount Rushmore under its jurisdiction. Engineer Julian Spotts helped with the project by improving its infrastructure. For example, he had the tram upgraded so that it could reach the top of Mount Rushmore for the ease of workers. By Jul. 4, 1934 (79 years ago), Washington's face had been completed and was dedicated. The face of Thomas Jefferson was dedicated in 1936 (77 years ago), and the face of Abraham Lincoln was dedicated on sep. 17, 1937 (76 years ago). In 1937 (76 years ago), a bill was introduced in Congress to add the head of civil-rights leader Susan B. Anthony, but a rider was passed on an appropriations bill requiring that federal funds be used to finish only those heads that had already been started at that time. In 1939 (74 years ago), the face of Theodore Roosevelt was dedicated.
The Sculptor's Studio—a display of unique plaster models and tools related to the sculpting—was built in 1939 (74 years ago) under the direction of Borglum. Borglum died from an embolism in Mar. 1941 (72 years ago). His son, Lincoln Borglum, continued the project. Originally, it was planned that the figures would be carved from head to waist, but insufficient funding forced the carving to end. Borglum had also planned a massive panel in the shape of the Louisiana Purchase commemorating in eight-foot-tall gilded letters the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Louisiana Purchase, and seven other territorial acquisitions from Alaska to Texas to the Panama Canal Zone.
The entire project cost US$989,992.32. Notably for a project of such size, no workers died during the carving.
On Oct. 15, 1966 (47 years ago), Mount Rushmore was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. An essay from Nebraska student William Andrew Burkett, selected as the winner for the college-age group in 1934 (79 years ago), was placed on the Entablature on a bronze plate in 1973 (40 years ago). In 1991 (22 years ago), President George H. W. Bush officially dedicated Mount Rushmore.
In a canyon behind the carved faces is a chamber, cut only 70 feet (21 m) into the rock, containing a vault with sixteen porcelain enamel panels. The panels include the text of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, biographies of the four presidents and Borglum, and the history of the U.S. The chamber was created as the entranceway to a planned "Hall of Records"; the vault was installed in 1998 (15 years ago).
Ten years of redevelopment work culminated with the completion of extensive visitor facilities and sidewalks in 1998 (15 years ago), such as a Visitor Center, Museum, and the Presidential Trail. Maintenance of the memorial annually requires mountain climbers to monitor and seal cracks. The memorial is not cleaned to remove lichens. It has been cleaned only once. On Jul. 8, 2005 (8 years ago), Kärcher GmbH, a German manufacturer of cleaning machines, conducted a free cleanup operation; the washing used pressurized water at over 200 °F (93 °C).
GeologyMount Rushmore is largely composed of granite. The memorial is carved on the northwest margin of the Harney Peak granite batholith in the Black Hills of South Dakota, so the geologic formations of the heart of the Black Hills region are also evident at Mount Rushmore. The batholith magma intruded into the pre-existing mica schist rocks during the Precambrian period about 1.6 billion years ago. However, the uneven cooling of the molten rock caused the formation of both fine and coarse-grained minerals, including quartz, feldspar, muscovite, and biotite. Fractures in the granite were sealed by pegmatite dikes. The light-colored streaks in the presidents' foreheads are due to these dikes.
The Black Hills granites were exposed to erosion during the late Precambrian, but were buried by sandstones and other sediments during the Cambrian Period. The area remained buried throughout the Paleozoic Era, but was exposed again to erosion during the tectonic uplift about 70 million years ago. The Black Hills area was uplifted as an elongated geologic dome which towered some 20,000 feet (6,100 m) above sea level, but erosion wore the area down to only 4,000 feet (1,200 m). The subsequent natural erosion of this mountain range allowed the carvings by stripping the granite of the overlying sediments and the softer adjacent schists. The contact between the granite and darker schist is viewable just below the sculpture of Washington.
Borglum selected Mount Rushmore as the site for several reasons. The rock of the mountain is composed of smooth, fine-grained granite. The durable granite erodes only 1 inch (25 mm) every 10,000 years, indicating that it was sturdy enough to support sculpting. In addition, it was the tallest mountain in the region, looming to a height of 5,725 feet (1,745 m) above sea level. Because the mountain faces the southeast, the workers also had the advantage of sunlight for most of the day.
TourismTourism is South Dakota's second-largest industry, and Mount Rushmore is its top tourist attraction. In 2004 (9 years ago), over two million visitors traveled to the memorial. The site is also home to the final concerts of Rushmore Music Camp and attracts many visitors over the week of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
The Lincoln Borglum Museum is located in the memorial. It features two 125-seat theaters that show a 13-minute movie about Mount Rushmore. One of the best viewpoints is located at Grandview Terrace, above the Museum. The Presidential Trail, a walking trail and boardwalk, starts at Grandview Terrace and winds through the Ponderosa pine forests to the Sculptor's Studio, providing close-up views of the memorial. The Sculptor's studio was built by Gutzon Borglum, and features discussion about the construction of the monument as well as the tools used. The amphitheater also has a 30-minute program at dusk that describes the construction of the memorial. Following that, the mountain is illuminated for two hours.
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