Welcome to Wednesday, June 17th! We continue our exploration of monuments, many of which are known around the world, the posting today is particularly fascinating knowing the base started purely from nature.
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Doane Robinson of the South Dakota Historical Society wanted a monument to be built in South Dakota in order to help the economy of the state by attracting tourism. In 1923, he proposed that this monument should be built from the granite cliffs in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Senator Peter Norbeck of South Dakota approved the proposal, and federal funding helped the project. Robinson asked architect and sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Borglum decided to use Mount Rushmore for the sculpture, since it seemed to be the easiest and most stable of the cliffs to work on.
Having decided on the location of the sculpture, Borglum decided to make the monument of four presidents of the United States. He chose the two most famous presidents in American history, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. He chose Thomas Jefferson because Jefferson nearly doubled the size of the United States in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase (which included the land that became South Dakota). The last president Borglum chose was Theodore Roosevelt, suggested by President Calvin Coolidge (who insisted that at least there be two Republicans and at least one Democrat represented) because of Theodore Roosevelt’s introduction of the National Park Service.
Borglums original design was a sculpture of each president intended to go down to their waists, but time constraints and funding only provided for their heads.
Workers used harnesses attached to steel cables while sculpting.
A few hundred workers, most of whom were miners, sculptors, or rock climbers, used dynamite, jackhammers, and chisels to remove material from the mountain. A stairway was constructed to the top of the mountain, where ropes were fixed. Workers were supported by harnesses attached to the ropes.
Construction began on October 4, 1927. In 1935 Borglum appointed Italian immigrant Luigi Del Bianco as chief carver.
Upon completion of presidents sculptures, in 1938, Borglum and his crew began to carve the grand hall, where he envisaged the original Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution should eventually be stored. But a combination of unexpectedly hard granite, looming war in Europe, and lack of funding conspired against Borglum’s last dream, though his plans became more elaborate as his team rushed to complete this work. They had reached 70 feet into the granite by March 1941, when Borglum unexpectedly died. The monument was deemed complete and all work shut down on October 31 of the same year.