Okay, first the amazing scale of Mount Rushmore. The memorial covers 1,278 acres. The heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln are about 60 feet across. At that rate, the entire bodies would have been 465 feet tall. The carving took fourteen years to complete, and more than 800 million pounds of stone were removed during its creation.
Located near Keystone, South Dakota, Mount Rushmore was called “Six Grandfathers” by the nearby Lakota Indians. A local historian conceived of turning it into a monument to our presidents as a way of increasing tourism in South Dakota. It’s definitely accomplished that goal – more than two million people visit the monument each year.
Chosen as the sculptor was Gutzon Borglun, a student of French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Borglun was the natural choice, having just completed the carving of Confederate generals on Stone Mountain, Georgia. Carving began in 1927, supervised alternately by Gutzon and his son, Lincoln. Sadly, Gutzon Borglun didn’t live to see the dedication, dying from an embolism just before the monument’s dedication in March, 1941.
Oh, and if you think Congress only recently started losing its senses, consider this: In 1937, a bill was introduced to add the head of Susan B. Anthony to the mountain. Really. You can’t make this stuff up.