Mount Rushmore National Memorial: A Monument Commemorating the Conception, Preservation, and Growth of the Great American Republic was published by the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society of Black Hills in 1946.
Civilization, even its fine arts, is, most of it, quantity-produced stuff; education, law, government, wealth—each is enduring only as the day. Too little of it lasts into tomorrow and tomorrow is strangely the enemy of today, as today has already begun to forget buried yesterday. Each succeeding civilization forgets its predecessor, and out of its body builds its homes, its temples. Civilizations are ghouls. Egypt was pulled apart by its successor; Greece was divided among the Romans; Rome was pulled to pieces by bigotry and a bitterness much of which was engendered in its own empire building.
I want, somewhere in America on or near the Rockies, the backbone of the Continent, so far removed from succeeding, selfish, coveting civilizations, a few feet of stone that bears witness, carries the likenesses, the dates, a word or two of the great things we accomplished as a Nation, placed so high it won’t pay to pull down for lesser purposes.
Hence, let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away.
And so Mount Rushmore was placed “practically in the center of the North American continent.” A sculpture carved not with chisels, but with drills, jackhammers, and explosives.
Big? Oh, yes. Enormous.
How big is great? How high is up?
In the wide and numberless fields of creative art, size is a matter of spirit rather than of material bulk. A sonnet may be a masterpiece, and an epic rubbish; or an epic may be sublime, a sonnet petty.
It is only affectation to confine one’s praise to small things. Because a poet delights in a brook chuckling through a thicket of birches he need not therefore despise Niagara. The word “colossal” should not be surrendered entirely to the advertisers.
This is a very unique look at the building and preservation of Mount Rushmore. The Foreword was taken from the words of Gutzon Borglum (who died in 1941, five years before the book was published). A biography of Borglum was written by Rupert Hughes. The detailed description of the creation of Mount Rushmore was written by Borglum’s wife, Mary, heavily punctuated with pictures showing the uncut stone, the scaffolding that men hung from, the models the end results were patterned after, and close-ups of noses, mustaches, and chins being blasted into the rock. A wonderful retelling from someone who was there.
There are some speculations by a former president of the South Dakota School of Mines as to the age of the rock with which, notwithstanding his confidence at the time, current speculations disagree.
Borglum’s son, Lincoln, explains the addition of the Hall of Records and the Great Stairway to the memorial. The work on the Hall of Records was preempted by Borglum’s death and World War II.
Finally, you can read brief biographies of the four presidents featured on Mount Rushmore: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.
Worth downloading for the photos and illustrations alone. And goes great with our free Mount Rushmore unit study!
Mt. Rushmore: A Unit Study
Our free unit study includes further background information, videos, activities, and printables!
Hall of Records
Explanation and photos from the National Park Service.