Tuesday 4 October 2011

The Million Dollar Sculpture

It took 12 years to construct, cost 1 million dollars to fund, covered an area of 1,278.45 acres, and sat 5, 725 feet above sea level.  On this day in 1927, Gutzon Borglum started carving into the granite on the side of a mountain in South Dakota's Black Hills National Forest.  Workers used dynamite to blast the granite after which Mr. Borglum would sculpt four eggs, each 60 feet tall, carving a face into each one.    Although no deaths took place as a result of the project, injuries did occur.  Originally, George Washington was carved first followed by Thomas Jefferson to his right; however, Jefferson cracked so badly that the sculptor had to reform Jefferson on Washington's left.  A couple of years later Abraham Lincoln's likeness was dedicated followed by Theodore Roosevelt's.  Overcoming early obstacles, Borglum was able to complete his sculpture on the side of Mount Rushmore before his death in 1941.

The national monument has been mentioned in various TV shows and movies and is featured in a chase scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" in 1959.  The sculptor had intended on etching the history of the United States underneath the four presidents' heads, but federal money ran out and the idea was abandonned. However, in 1934, a college student named William Andrew Burkett wrote and entered a 500 word essay about America's history into a competition and won.  His essay was carved into a bronze plaque and placed at the site in 1973.  The carving of the four presidents had been conceived to attract tourists to the area; today, two million visitors flock annually to Mount Rushmore, named after a prominent New York lawyer who once scaled its heights.

Photo courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org

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