A Trip To Mount Rushmore
My family visited Mount Rushmore in the mid 1960’s on one our many moves. Dad was a career Air Force man, therefore moves were frequent. We made most of our moves in the family’s white, subcompact, Plymouth Valiant which dad kept in top notch condition. On this particular trip we were on our way to Glasgow Air Force Base, Montana and would travel through the Black Hills in the Bad Lands of South Dakota. That is the region where Mount Rushmore is located.
Dad always stressed that travel was an education in itself. Therefore he took every opportunity to see as much as possible of any attractions located on or near our planned route. Dad would drive and mom was our navigator. She held the maps and brochures of places we planned to visit.
Rapid City, South Dakota
As we neared Rapid City, South Dakota mom announced our next destination was to be Mount Rushmore. The announcement didn’t bring the response our parents expected.
Who wanted to see a bunch of faces on a big rock? Mom dug out the brochures and passed them around for us kids to see.
Needless to say, it wasn’t simply a few faces on a rock wall like we had imagined. These were magnificent giant sculptures of some of our most famous presidents! We were now inspired and eagerly awaiting the forthcoming experience.
Before our arrival at the National Monument, mom read us a brief history of the granite mountain wall from the literature she had collected previous to our trip. We also read about the Black Hills and Bad Lands where Western legends such as Chief Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill Cody, Lewis and Clark, and famous Sioux warriors roamed. The Bad Lands were also the location the popular movie “Dances With Wolves” was filmed. But we were privileged to see it long before the movie.
When we arrived at Mount Rushmore the spectacular sight left us breathless. We were able to use telescopes to get a close up view of the sculptures. In the visitors’ center were photographs taken during the construction of the massive project. The undertaking began as a dream in 1923 by Doane Robinson, an elderly member of the South Dakota State Historical Society. Apparently his original vision of giant statues of Chief Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill, Lewis and Clark, Sioux warriors didn’t go over too well as the public and government officials laughed at his plans.
Finally, when the laughing stopped, Robinson sought the aid of U.S. Senator Peter Norbeck and the plan was changed to using four US presidents.
The presidents were chosen for what each symbolized. George Washington represents the struggle for independence and Thomas Jefferson for his concept of government by the people. Abraham Lincoln was selected for his ideas on equality and the permanent union of the states, and Theodore Roosevelt for his 20th century stance of the United States in world affairs. The project actually began in August, 1927, and spanned a length of 14 years. Only about six and a half years of that was spent carving the mountain. Weather delays and lack of funding accounted for the remaining time. It cost $900,000 and was completed in 1941.
It was the famous sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, who did the actual creation. “Until the wind and rain alone shall wear them away.” are the famous words he used to describe the length of time Mount Rushmore would endure. The mountain itself was named after Charles E. Rushmore, a New York lawyer who investigated mining claims in the Black Hills around 1885.
One surprising detail we learned was the carvings receive an annual facelift. It’s necessary because of drastic weather changes the mountain has to endure. Ice forms in minute cracks in the granite and enlarges them. Workmen use silicon for repair and to prevent further damage.
Almost 400 workers were employed in its’ construction. Some built roads, generated power or sharpened thousands of bits for the pneumatic drills. Others handled dynamite or did the delicate finishing work.
The Mount Rushmore attraction is one of the more inspiring sights we have seen in our many travels. It ranks right up there with the Statue of Liberty and the American Flag as a symbol of our nation’s democracy. Its well worth the time spent to see it.