Mount Rushmore, Stone Mountain and Crazy Horse

Sunday, July 31, 2011
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 Above is a photograph of the early stages of Mount Rushmore. As you can see, there is a face to the left of Washington. That was where they originally intended to carve Jefferson, but the rock was unsuited for carving, so they dynamited the work they had done and moved Jefferson to the right of Washington.

The carving of Rushmore was began in 1927. On July 4, 1934, Washington's face was dedicated after being completed. Jefferson followed with dedication in 1936, Lincoln in 1937 and Teddy Roosevelt in 1939.  The original intention was to carve the figures down to their waists, but that planned was dropped as funding began to run out. 

In 1937 Congress tried to pass a bill to add the head of civil-rights leader Susan B. Anthony to Rushmore, but that was eventually blocked by a rider to an appropriations bill limiting federal funding to only finishing the heads that had already been started.

Work was finally stopped in 1941 when federal funding ran out. The project had cost just a little under one million dollars, Remarkably for a project its size, no lives were lost in the carving of Rushmore.

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To promote tourism in South Dakota Doane Robinson came up with the idea of the Rushmore carvings in 1923. Robinson persuaded sculptor Gutzon Borglum to handle the carving. Borglum previously had been involved in sculpting the Confederate Memorial Carving which is the largest bas relief and is carved into the side of Stone Mountain, Georgia.  

It depicts Stonewall Jackson, Robert E Lee and Jefferson Davis on horseback. Originally plans were to have the three trailed by soldiers, but those plans were dropped. Work was started on it in 1923 and it was finally deemed finished in 1972. The project was always surrounded in controversy because it was partially funded via involvement of the KKK.

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Another bit of monumental American carving that has ties to Mount Rushmore is the Crazy Horse Memorial. The Black Hills had been ceded to the Lakota Sioux in 1868. However, in the aftermath of the Great Sioux War of 1876 they lost control of the territory. 

As a result Mount Rushmore's location has never set well with the local Sioux. They've responded by beginning to carve a statue of Crazy Horse, 17 miles away from the Rushmore site. Work was began on it in  1948, but has proceeded very slowly. Crazy Horse's head was finally dedicated in 1998.  There is considerably more work to be done if they stick to their original plans.