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Monumental Differentiation

- Friday, January 12, 2018
a picture of Mount Rushmore under construction showing scaffolding and George Washington face, Thomas Jefferson's face and Abraham Lincoln's face nearly completed, but, Theodore Roosevelt's face just getting started.

How Mount Rushmore came about

You may have visited Mount Rushmore National Memorial and seen the 60 ft high granite faces of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. You may even recognize the name of the sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln who later was in charge of the project. But do know the story of how Mount Rushmore came about?

In the 1920’s, roughly 30 years after South Dakota became a state, the official state’s historian Doane Robinson was thinking of ways to increase tourism. The major asset South Dakota had was its scenery of granite mountains and vast areas of trees, but other states in the area including Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and pretty much every state in the northwest U.S. all offered some form of mountains and trees.

Mr. Robinson, quickly came to the realization that “tourists soon get fed up on scenery unless it has something of special interest connected with it to make it impressive.” His idea was to build into the mountain the famous figures of frontier such as Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud, and Buffalo Bill Cody. So he sent a letter to Guzton Borglum who was currently carving granite in Georgia, to come see the potential project.

Changing the concept

When Borglum arrived, he felt frontier figures was too regional and that this needed to be national monument, so he changed the concept to four presidents that represented the first 150 years of history of the United States.

The measurable impact of differentiation

Because Doane Robinson had the idea to differentiate the mountains and trees of South Dakota with a sculpture, the state now sees over 2.3 million visitors to the area annually. That is truly a monumental differentiation.

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