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Mount Rushmore National Memorial

a huge carving on a granite cliff called Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota, about 25 miles southwest of Rapid City, that shows the faces of four Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln

Mount Rushmore

location of Mount Rushmore (black dot)

The idea for creating a sculpture in the Black Hills began with South Dakota State Historian Doane Robinson, who wanted to create an attraction that would draw tourists from across the country to his state. In 1924, he approached sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who agreed to take on the project. Borglum ultimately chose Mount Rushmore as the site because it was relatively easy to access and because the mountain is composed of solid granite that only erodes about 1 inch every 10,000 years. After the State of South Dakota agreed to fund the project, Robinson was able to convince the U.S. Congress to put up $250,000 in matching funds.

Work began on Mount Rushmore in 1927, and continued for fourteen years. Over 800 million pounds of facing rock were removed to create the four figures. To guide the men, Borglum crafted one-twelfth-scale models of the finished work that were hoisted to the edge of the cliff and used as guides for each cut and blast. The work was personally supervised by Borglum until shortly before his death in 1941, after which his son, Lincoln, took over. The memorial was completed soon after Gutzon Borglum's death, and was dedicated on October 31, 1941. Despite the dangerous nature of the work, not a single worker lost his life while sculpting the memorial. Final cost of the project was $989,992.32.

Mount Rushmore before sculpting began

The summit of the mountain upon which the four presidents were "carved" is 5,725 feet above sea level. It was named after New York City attorney Charles E. Rushmore, who came to the Black Hills in 1884-85 to check legal titles on properties. On returning to Pine Camp he asked Bill Challis the name of this mountain. Bill replied, "Never had a name but from now on we'll call it Rushmore."

Each head is about 60 feet high, which, if scaled to man-size would be 465 feet. The noses are 20 feet long, the mouths are 18 feet across, and the eyes are 11 feet across.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial's official website is

See Also

George Washington
Thomas Jefferson
Theodore Roosevelt
Abraham Lincoln

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The Robinson Library >> South Dakota

This page was last updated on August 10, 2018.