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October 11, 2016

Mount Rushmore and Brave Workers: 20 Amazing Photographs of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Under Construction

The southeastern face of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest is the site of four gigantic carved sculptures depicting the faces of U.S. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

Led by the sculptor Gutzon Borglum, work on the project began in 1927 and was finally completed in 1941. Over that time period, some 400 workers erected the sculpture under dangerous conditions, removing a total of 450,000 tons of rock in order to create the enormous carved heads, each of which reached a height of 60 feet (18 meters). In sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s original design, the four presidents were meant to be represented from the waist up, but insufficient funding brought the carving to a halt after completion of their faces.

Known as the “Shrine of Democracy,” Mount Rushmore welcomes upwards of 2 million visitors every year, and is one of America’s most popular tourist attractions.

Why Each of the Four Presidents Was Chosen

Borglum made the decision about which presidents to include on the mountain.

Following are the main reasons according to the National Park Service why each was chosen for the sculpture:
  • George Washington - He was the first president and represented the foundation of American democracy.
  • Thomas Jefferson - With the Louisiana Purchase, he greatly expanded the nation. He was also the author of the hugely influential Declaration of Independence.
  • Theodore Roosevelt - He not only represented the industrial development of the nation, but was also widely known for conservation efforts.
  • Abraham Lincoln - As the president during the US Civil War, he represents the preservation of the nation above all costs.

Artist Gutzon Borglum oversees work on Mount Rushmore

Work progressing on Mount Rushmore during the winter

Workers on Mount Rushmore

Model of Mount Rushmore in the first sculptor's studio

The first attempt at Thomas Jefferson on Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore through a tunnel along the Iron Mountain Road

Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln, use the tramway

Work progressing on Mount Rushmore during the winter

Top view of Mount Rushmore during the carving

Mount Rushmore in the winter

Distant view of Mount Rushmore from Iron Mountain Road

Worker in a bosun chair on the Washington sculpture of Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore seen from Horsethief Lake Road

The model of Mount Rushmore in the first sculptor's studio

Workers work on Mount Rushmore

Artist Gutzon Borglum looks over the work on Thomas Jefferson's face

Staged photo with Jefferson's eye on Mount Rushmore

Worker on Mount Rushmore

Blasting of Abraham Lincoln sculpture on Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore in the winter

(Photos by Charles D'Emery, via National Park Service)


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