The History and Politics Behind Mount Rushmore
What is Mount Rushmore?The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a famous sculpture carved into the face of Mount Rushmore. It is located in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota and it attracts close to two million visitors every year. Between 1927 and 1941, over 400 people helped to create the sculpture and a total of 450,000 tonnes of rock were removed in order to create the heads of four presidents; each of these stand at around 18 metres (about 60 feet) tall. Originally, the presidents were supposed to be represented from the waist up. However, due to a lack of funding, the sculpture came to a halt after their faces were complete. Now, Mount Rushmore is one of the most recognisable sculptures in the world.
The Political Faces of Mount RushmoreAs most people know, Mount Rushmore represents the faces of four presidents of the United States. These are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum chose these specific presidents as he felt that they, in his opinion, clearly represented important events in the history of the United States. These centre around birth, growth, preservation and development.
The four political faces of Mount Rushmore are:
- George Washington - George Washington was the First President of the United States. Washington led the American Revolutionary War and helped the United States to gain independence from Great Britain. On Mount Rushmore, George Washington represents the birth of the United States.
- Thomas Jefferson - As the Third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson was a key figure in the creation of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson also purchased the Louisiana Territory from France, which immediately doubled the size of the United States. On Mount Rushmore, Thomas Jefferson represents the growth of the United States.
- Abraham Lincoln - Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States and he led the country through the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln worked hard to preserve the union of the country and he played a key part in the abolishment of slavery. On Mount Rushmore, Abraham Lincoln represents the preservation of the United States.
- Theodore Roosevelt - Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States and he guided the country through economic growth at the beginning of the 20th Century. On Mount Rushmore, Theodore Roosevelt represents development of the United States.
The Politics behind Mount RushmoreDuring a visit to the Black Hills in August of 1925, Mount Rushmore was identified by sculptor Gutzon Borglum's as the desired site of the sculpture. Some of the local Native Americans as well as environmentalists expressed opposition to the project, claiming it was a desecration of the natural landscape. South Dakota's state historian Doane Robinson worked diligently to raise funding for the project, aided by Senator Peter Norbeck and Rapid City Mayor John Boland. Boland even when as far as saying "It seems to me that my major accomplishments, if any, were the nine years that I conducted the business affairs of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society."
After President Calvin Coolidge traveled to the Black Hills for his summer vacation, the sculptor convinced the president to deliver an official dedication speech at Mount Rushmore on August 10, 1927.
During the last days of his presidency in 1929, Coolidge agreed to legislation which appropriated $250,000 in funds for the Rushmore project and creating the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission to oversee its completion.
Due to its historical and political links, Mount Rushmore has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States. It is an impressive spectacle and the only one of its kind, which is why the sculpture continues to attract thousands of people each and every day.
In 1991, Mount Rushmore celebrated its 50th anniversary after undergoing a $40 million restoration project. The National Park Service, which maintains Mount Rushmore, records upwards of 2 million visitors every year.
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April 3, 2019