Unlike previous posts where two or three crossword clues are defined – today’s Sunday puzzle is the theme of Mount Rushmore – a topic worthy of solo treatment. Most of us can envision what Mount Rushmore looks like. Some of us have been to it – in fact over three million people visit it each year, which is quite a feat considering how far one travels to see it even in the state of South Dakota.
Today I learned that Mount Rushmore was named for New York lawyer Charles E. Rushmore, who visited the area in 1884 to look at mining prospects. When he asked a local the name of the mountain and was told that it had no name but would be known as Rushmore from then on.
Doane Robinson, a South Dakota historian, wanted to attract more visitors to his state. He envisioned sculptures of “The Needles” – several granite pillars in the likenesses of heroes of the old West. He approached Gutzon Borglum, an American sculptor who was already busy working on a Robert E. Lee sculpture at Stone Mountain. As it turned out, Borglum and the group that commissioned him, had a fallout out, so he was available for Robinson’s project.
Borglum’s initial idea was to have George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as he thought they had broader appeal. Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt were added later because of their contributions to democracy and conservation. In 1925, he picked out Mount Rushmore as the site and work began in 1927, although not without protests from Native Americans and environmentalists. Nonetheless, President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the site in 1927 – work began in earnest in October of that year.
While the initial plans included busts of all four Presidents, there wasn’t enough funding for this, so heads it was! Over 400 people worked on the site, using fairly new techniques of dynamite and pneumatic hammers. Even though the work was very dangerous, no lives were lost in the creation of this massive memorial.
In 1930, the head of Washington was dedicated. Jefferson’s head was to be to the right of Washington, but the stone was found to be too weak, so his sculpture was moved to the left. Lincoln’s head was dedicated in 1937, and Theodore Roosevelt’s head in 1939. Gutzon Borglum died in March 1941, so his son, Lincoln finished the final details for the grand ceremony held in October of that same year.
Today, the faces of Mount Rushmore are one of the most recognized images in the United States. Despite what some believe, in the movie, North by Northwest, Hitchcock was not allowed to film on Mount Rushmore, so he had a large-scale model of the sculpture built in Hollywood to film the famous scenes from that movie.