Tuesday 5 July 2016

Mount Rushmore: Political Figures Could Have Been Wild West Heroes

Doane Robinson sketched a plan for a sculpture in South Dakota to attract tourists.  In the side of the Black Hills, he envisioned four figures:  Lewis and Clark, Red Hill and Buffalo Bill.  However, sculptor Gutzon Borglum, commissioned to build the sculpture, proposed the presidents Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson.  Later, his good friend Theodore Roosevelt was added.

Gutzon faced many dilemmas as he set out to carve Mount Rushmore, named after a New York lawyer who once scaled its heights.  He carved Washington's face successfully, but after he carved Jefferson's face, it started to crack.  He was forced to blast the face and start again on Washington's other side.

Gutzon's original intent was to carve the full torso of each president, but when federal funds dried up, he decided to carve just the heads (Washington's jacket and scarf had already been sculpted).  A house of records, intended to sit behind each president's head, never came to fruition, also due to lack of money.

Weather also featured prominently in the construction of the monument.  Gutzon would set fires in barrels to keep the 400 workers warm during the winter. Miraculously, no one was killed despite the constant use of dynamite to carve the mountain.

The final obstacle Gutzon faced was his failing health.  Dying only months before the sculpture was completed, it fell to his son, Lincoln, to complete the project, someone who had worked closely with his father form the beginning.  It was in 1941, fourteen years after its beginning, that Mount Rushmore was formally dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt.

Note:  For more information, read "The Million Dollar Sculpture" at http://alinefromlinda.blogspot.ca/2011/10/million-dollar-sculpture.html.

The U.S. Post Office issued a stamp in 1952 courtesy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Rushmore.

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