Learn the History of Mount Rushmore

The creation of Mount Rushmore was ambitious from the onset. It took a few dreamers, a stupendously large team, and a surprising amount of permission. The end result was an iconic landmark attraction that manages to represent the freedom and hope of millions. Make a plan to see this top American memorial when booking Mount Rushmore lodging.

Man working on Mount Rushmore

Gathering Support

Famed historian, Doane Robinson, had the idea for a memorial featuring the faces of famous people in American history. The idea of presidents fell into place a little later, as Robinson gained support from architect and sculptor Gutzon Borglum and Senator Peter Norbeck. Who made Mount Rushmore? It was an idea born from the mind of Robinson and perpetuated by government leaders and the ambition of Borglum.

Before a single pickax hit rock, approval was needed. This came in the form of a bill authorizing federal land for the memorial. While it easily passed through Congress, it took further legislative efforts to finally approve development on March 5, 1925.

Despite this, money was not readily available. A promise was made to refuse South Dakota tax dollars to be moved for the project, which forced developers to think outside-the-box.

Borglum sought the support of two key gentlemen. The first, Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, gave him half of the money needed for the project. The second came from the highest office. President Coolidge signed the bill authorizing government matching funds up to $250,000 after he was won over by a wreath dropped from a plane, inviting him to the memorial’s dedication ceremony- years before carving ever began.

The effort was a success. The Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission was finally completed under Herbert Hoover. Carving could finally commence.

Carving the Monument

The carving itself was often considered “secondary” to the efforts made to keep the project in motion. It seemed that every turn, especially early on, development was under threat of seizing.

A key component in consistent funding was President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal which helped match funds as the project continued. Furthermore, Gutzon Borglum spent years traveling in an effort to acquire additional funding for various subprojects. This included the development of the Hall of Records- a repository planned to chronicle the full story of Mount Rushmore.

Unfortunately, funds dried up when the government, discouraged by developments outside the actual carving, took tighter control and sought to keep Borglum focused on the task at hand. The Hall of Records froze development and was never completed.

Development continued on with one president after another getting added to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, but things came to a drastic halt against a more pressing obstacle- World War II.

Mount Rushmore was finally considered complete October 31, 1941, a few months after the death of Gutzon Borglum. The project was finalized under the direction of his son, Lincoln Borglum.

Close up of Mount Rushmore and the mountains in the distance

Completion of Each President

The completion of each president marked a major milestone for Mount Rushmore- and each addition is its own wonderful little story.

  • Washington: Washington was the first to be added in 1930 and was the only one essentially planned upon the very early development of the project. Washington represented the birth of the country. Washington’s dedication was July 4th, 1930.
  • Jefferson: Jefferson was completed in 1936 and was chosen to represent the growth of the country. As a key architect of the Declaration of Independence and as a buyer in the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson helped craft the country and doubled its size. Jefferson was dedicated August 30th, 1936.
  • Lincoln: Lincoln was settled in 1937 and was chosen to represent the preservation of the country. Under its greatest duress, Lincoln helped hold it together.
  • Roosevelt: Roosevelt was added in 1939 to stand for the development of the United States. He played a leading role through some of the country’s biggest modern developments, like the end to corporate monopolies and the assurance of key protective measures for the average working man.

Mount Rushmore history was formed by a staggering collaborative effort, spearheaded by a young man with a vision. It has now firmly settled as one of the most important attractions in the country- a constant and everlasting testament to American freedom. Visiting Mount Rushmore today is something truly special.

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