Happy Presidents’ Day

Here are some facts about one of our iconic landmarks…Mount Rushmore. Did you know…?

The idea of creating a sculpture in the Black Hills was dreamed up in 1923 by South Dakota historian Doane Robinson. He wanted to find a way to attract tourists to the state. Nearly three million people visit every year.

Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum was enlisted to help with the project.

The presidents were chosen for their significant contribution to the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the country.

George Washington was chosen because he was our nation’s founding father.

Thomas Jefferson was chosen to represent expansion, because he was the president who signed the Louisiana Purchase and authored the Declaration of Independence.

Theodore Roosevelt was chosen because he represented conservation and the industrial blossoming of the nation.

Abraham Lincoln was chosen because he led the country through the Civil War and believed in preserving the nation at any cost.

The mountain’s official name came from a New York lawyer who was surveying gold claims in the area in 1885. Charles E. Rushmore asked his guide, William Challis, “What’s the name of that mountain?” Challis is said to have replied, “It’s never had one…till now…we’ll call the damn thing Rushmore.” I don’t know if this is true or not…but it makes a great story. Then, in 1930, the United States Board on Geographic Names officially recognized it as Mount Rushmore.

Carving of Mount Rushmore began in 1927 and finished in 1941. It took a team of over 400 men working on it. These were men who had come to the Black Hills to mine gold. What is remarkable is that no one died during construction, especially since dynamite and jackhammers were used.

Each president’s face is 60 feet high. The faces appear in the order: Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln. Jefferson was originally intended to be on Washington’s right. But, after nearly two years of work on Jefferson, the rock was found to be unsuitable and the partially completed face was “erased” from the mountainside using dynamite.

Washington’s face was completed in 1934, Jefferson’s in 1936, Lincoln was finished in 1937, and Roosevelt in 1939.


The project cost $989,992.32 and took 14 years to finish. Six of those years included actual carving.

Mount Rushmore is granite, which erodes roughly 1 inch every 10,000 years. Since each of the noses is about 240 inches long, they might last up to 2.4 million years before they completely wear away.

Numerous things are being done to preserve Mount Rushmore. Over 8,000 feet of camouflaged copper wire was installed in 1998 to help monitor 144 hairline cracks. The copper wire was replaced with fiber optic cable in 2009.

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