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October 31, 1941 – The Completion of Mount Rushmore

Posted October 31, 2013 8:00 AM by cheme_wordsmithy

One of the fondest memories I have from my "Out West" trip 6 years ago was arriving at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. Though I am often more impressed by the creations I witness in nature, the massiveness of this engineering marvel and work of art was pretty amazing to see.

The face of this structure stretches 60 feet, making it the largest art sculpture project on earth. The memorial consists of the faces of four of our nation's presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln (respectively), immortalized in granite.

Jonah LeRoy "Doane" Robinson was credited with conceiving the idea behind Mount Rushmore, which was to carve famous people into the Black Hills of South Dakota to promote tourism. Initially, the plan was to sculpt some western heroes like Louis and Clark into granite pillars known as the Needles. However, Gutzon Borglum, the Danish-American artist and sculptor responsible for Mt. Rushmore , realized that both the setting and the subjects were too thin. He decided to memorialize the four presidents instead, for a more national focus, and to do so on Mount Rushmore, for better quality stone and more exposure to sunlight. After securing federal funding, the project began on October 4, 1927.

The Mt. Rushmore project team included nearly 400 men and women. Each would walk 700 stairs to the top of the mountain every day to punch in for duty at $8.00/day or so. Drillers operated jackhammers, powdermen placed dynamite, and others operated the winch house or acted as spotters in hoisting workers off the mountain. While there were some injuries, surprisingly there were no fatalities throughout the project.

Work on Mt. Rushmore - Via Nationalgeographic.com

The sculpting process involved the use of dynamite (and lots of it) to blow rock apart. About 90% of Mt. Rushmore was carved with dynamite. When only 3 to 6 inches of rock remained to be removed at each surface, workers would drill holes very close together to weaken the granite and eventually pull it off by hand or by hammer. This process was called "honeycombing." In fact, workers would often sell honeycombed pieces of granite to tourists visiting the construction. To finish and smooth the surface, workers used a hand-facing or bumper tool.

The four faces of the monument were completed by 1939. The original plan was to sculpt each president down to the waist (see model on left), but due to lack of federal funding the project was forced to end in October 1941. And although it never reached its full imagined potential, the memorial is still a wonder to behold today, and is a proud symbol of America and some of the important men who helped build and preserve it.

Resources:

National Parks Service

Engineering Pathway

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#1

Re: October 31, 1941 – The Completion of Mount Rushmore

10/31/2013 8:12 AM

Clark's partner was Lewis, not Louis.

--Ed. C.

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#2

Re: October 31, 1941 – The Completion of Mount Rushmore

10/31/2013 5:56 PM

What! no Obama face. That's a relief.

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Re: October 31, 1941 – The Completion of Mount Rushmore

10/31/2013 6:25 PM

It's narrower, though, so it could fit right in there between Roosevelt and Lincoln.

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Re: October 31, 1941 – The Completion of Mount Rushmore

11/01/2013 1:12 PM

The face maybe but his ears are going to poke out Roosevelt and Lincolns eye's.

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Re: October 31, 1941 – The Completion of Mount Rushmore

11/01/2013 4:29 PM

Nearby Crazy Horse memorial will dwarf Mt. Rushmore when/if they ever get it done.

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Re: October 31, 1941 – The Completion of Mount Rushmore

11/02/2013 4:41 PM

700 stairs or 700 steps?

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