Mount Rushmore, considered as the ‘Shrine of Democracy’, is situated in South Dakota and stands as the symbol of nearly one hundred and fifty years of American history, commemorating four American presidents who had a deep impact on the history of the country.
Conceptualized in the year 1923 by Doane Robinson to promote tourism in the Black Hills region, the project was commenced after approval in the year 1927. Gutzon Borglum undertook this project of carving the granite sculptures.
Initially, granite pillars called needles were supposed to be carved. But when Borglum realized that they were quite thin, he chose Mount Rushmore as it faced south-east and was exposed to sunlight for a long duration during daytime. Also, the highest peak was erosion-resistant! The mapping measurements and creation of models were carried out using the Greek method wherein about 1 inch of the model was equivalent to 1 foot on the mountain.
The sculpturing started in 1927 wherein the faces of the 4 presidents (Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln) had to be sculpted.
While George Washington brought in the concept of Democracy, Thomas Jefferson spread the need of having a government chosen by people. Theodore Roosevelt was famous for his business reforms and Abraham Lincoln was one of the important figures in ending the practice of slavery in the US.
Gutzon Borglum estimated this project to be completed in 6 years with a funding of about $500,000. The first step to this project was to remove the rock using dynamite until a granite layer to the thickness of about 3 – 6 inches were left. Later, honeycombing process was used to take off the final layer of granite after which the surface was made smooth. Julian Spotts suggested various improvements in the working conditions as well as the efficiency of the machines during the course of the project. Finally, it finished in 1941 and the cost rose up to $900,000.
The first figure to be sculpted was George Washington. To his right, Borglum planned to carve Thomas Jefferson. Two years down the lane, the rock had cracked and hence, this figure was blasted and finally Jefferson’s face was sculpted to the left of George Washington. In 1934, the face of George Washington was unveiled to the public. Jefferson’s sculpture was unveiled in 1936. The sculpture of Abraham Lincoln’s face got completed in 1937. Theodore Roosevelt’s face was the last to be unveiled in 1941.