Friday, September 4, 2009

Mount Rushmore

I mentioned on Tuesday that I did a bit of travelling this summer. In August and September I went on an amazing, 17-day road trip across the country and one of the things I saw was Mount Rushmore. After a visit to the sculptor’s studio, I knew I would have to tell you all about it.
Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills in South Dakota:
About 2 million people visit each year and I can understand why. The massive faces of former presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln have been carved into the mountainside in stunning detail that’s impossible to portray in a photograph. It’s tough to believe that the monument was meant to be much larger.

In the mid-1920s, the United States Congress decided to build the monument at Mount Rushmore in order to increase tourism in South Dakota. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who I’ll tell you more about next week, decided to take on the project.

Because Mount Rushmore was to be so large, Borglum couldn’t sculpt the entire mountain by himself. Instead, Borglum designed the monument and managed the men who actually carved the sculpture. It was dangerous work. As they carved, the men hung from the side of the mountain in swings like the one shown below!
It wasn’t easy to carve the faces into the solid granite mountain. The men had to blast away a lot of the rock using dynamite before they could begin to carve. They used a jackhammer, like the one below, to make holes for the dynamite.
Below is a man using a jackhammer to create holes in the mountain.
Dynamite was also used to erase mistakes from the mountain. Borglum originally settled on a design for the mountain that put Thomas Jefferson to the left of George Washington. When he discovered that the rock on that side of George Washington wasn’t strong enough to support the sculpture, the men blasted Jefferson off the mountain and began again on the other side of Washington.

Once the basic shapes of the faces had been created with dynamite, the men were able to use chisels and mallets to carve the finer details. Finally, they used a tool like the one below to smooth out the granite. The metal piece slips into the handle and then works like a small jackhammer to chip away tiny pieces of rock.
This process took 14 years; carving began in October 1927 and ended in October 1941.

Imagine how long it would have taken to carve the entire monument that Borglum designed:
In March 1941, Borglum died and his son took over the project. The United States became involved in World War II and Congress decided that we could not spend any more money on Mount Rushmore. It declared the mountain a finished piece of art.
And if this wasn't enough, check out this Lego Mount Rushmore. I did not see the Lego version, sadly.


pussreboots said...

I've never been to Mt. Rushmore (but want to go) and have never seen the proposed final version. Thank you for a fascinating post!

Unknown said...

So glad you're back! I hope you will do me the honor of contributing to next month's Gallery of Art Projects for Kids Blog Carnival-just a little something I whipped up a few weeks back. I hope you had a great vacation and that you are ever closer to your own classroom!

Jessica said...

I hope you get to see Mount Rushmore. It's worth the trip. I'm glad you liked the post!

Ms. Julie:
I would love to be a part of your blog carnival and I know just the project to submit. It isn't quite ready for public consumption, but I'll get to work!

I'm still a year away from my own classroom, but I'll be student teaching next semester!