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Mt. Rushmore: A Monument to Four Presidents

The faces carved into a mountain and how they got there.

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Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota is the iconic symbol where four presidents’ faces are carved into the stone.

Building the Monument

Gutzon Borglum was hired to sculpt the monument in 1925. It was his idea to have four presidents depicted who had been instrumental in the country’s growth. George Washington would represent the birth of the country, Thomas Jefferson stood for westward expansion, Theodore Roosevelt was a symbol of economic growth, and Abraham Lincoln was chosen because of his fight to preserve the nation in the Civil War.

Borglum had wanted to carve the presidents down to their waists and add a description of the memorial next to them, but there wasn’t enough space. Instead, he decided to build a room behind the faces, meant to store historical artifacts, which he called the Hall of Records. He began blasting a 70-foot tunnel in 1938 but was halted due to funding problems.

On March 6, 1941, Borglum died, and his son Lincoln continued the work. It was completed on October 31, 1941. The tunnel wasn’t finished until 1998.

The Controversy

The mountain and the land surrounding Mt. Rushmore once belonged to the Sioux Native Americans, according to a treaty. Once gold was discovered in the area, however, the United States broke the treaty and took over the land in 1877. In the 1920s, the Lakota Sioux began the process of suing the U.S. over illegally taking the land.

The Sioux’s legal battles continued until 1980. The courts agreed the land had been taken illegally and offered the tribe $17.1 million. The people refused the money, instead wanting the land returned or at least to see some of their own heroes on the mountain as well.

Fun Facts

  • Around 450,000 tons of rock were removed from the mountain to create the monument.
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S.
  • Most visitors view the monument from the Grand View Terrace, but some choose to walk the Presidential Trail (0.6 miles long, 422 stairs) to get up close and personal with the former presidents.
  • The sculpture was craved out of solid granite.
  • Each presidential carving is 60 feet tall.

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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