Mount Rushmore National Memorial is not only South Dakota’s most iconic landmark, it’s one of the most beloved monuments in America. More than two million people visit Mount Rushmore every year to marvel at this feat of engineering and artistry. Take a look at these 16 photos that were taken during the construction of Mount Rushmore, and you’ll get an idea of just how huge this project was.
1. The Mountain Before The Memorial
Doane Robinson, a South Dakota historian, is credited for the idea of Mount Rushmore, thinking that it would create tourism to the state (that worked out well, didn't it?). He originally wanted it carved in the Needles, but the granite there wasn't sturdy enough, so Mount Rushmore was chosen, instead.
2. Faces Starting To Emerge
Doane Robinson originally envisioned iconic faces of the Wild West, such as Buffalo Bill Cody or Lewis and Clark, but Gutzon Borglum's concept of the four former Presidents was adopted instead.
3. Hello, President Washington!
Mount Rushmore National Memorial took 14 years to complete, at a cost of $989,992.32.
4. Just Hanging Out At Work
The men who worked on the mountain all worked together as a team, hanging from cages and bosun chairs for hours as the carved and drilled.
5. Many Workers' Contributions
When the project began, the Great Depression was crippling the country, and men came from all over to work at the memorial.
6. George Washington Blowing His Nose
While no one died during the construction of the memorial, workers were often surprised when bits of rock rained down on them after a blast to the rock above. On one such occasion, when they asked what had just happened, the supervisor told the men, '"George Washington had just blew his nose."
7. Gutzon Borglum Oversees It All
The famous sculptor and designer of Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum was often a cantankerous boss with exacting standards, but he was quick to praise his employees and insisted that they share credit for the work on the monument.
8. Talented Carvers And A Master Sculptor
Gutzon Burglum recruited carvers from all over the country, and also trained local miners to carve his visionary memorial.
9. Jack (Palooka) Payne, a.k.a. "The Keystone Cutter"
Just 19 years old when he started working on the memorial, Jack was a simple laborer making 50 cents an hour. He worked his way up, and was eventually promoted to Carver, at $1.25 an hour.
10. When Your Office Chair Is A Bosun Chair
George Rumple held nine different positions at Mount Rushmore between 1932 and 1941, from a laborer to a foreman.
11. Lunching With The Presidents
Even hard-working laborers and carvers needed lunch, and what better place to eat it then on the mountain, with a view of the beautiful Black Hills?
12. Hanging From President Lincoln
Men worked for hours on hanging platforms to carve the intricate details of the presidents' faces. The man working on President Lincoln's eye was Alton "Hoot" Leach. Four members of the Leach family were part of the carving team from 1929 - 1941.
13. A Closeup Of The Artistry
This closeup of Jim Payne working on Lincoln's eye was taken by Lincoln Borglum, son of Gutzon Borglum.
14. Luigi Del Bianco, Chief Carver
Luigi Del Bianco had already worked on a few projects with Gutzon Borglum when he was called up to help with Mount Rushmore. Born in Italy, he immigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s. He's credited with taking on some of the more difficult challenges of Mount Rushmore, including carving President Thomas Jefferson's eyes.
15. President Lincoln And His Namesake, Lincoln Borglum
Gutzon Borglum's son, Lincoln, was just 12 years old when his father started the Mount Rushmore project, but as an adult he became his father's right-hand man, working as Pointer, Chief Pointer, and Rockwork Superintendent. He was well-liked by the men he supervised, and he dedicated 30 years of his life to the memorial.
16. Borglum's Chauffeur
Donald E. McGregor worked for Gutzon Borglum and his wife, Mary in 1939, as a chauffeur.
These 16 photos are just a few of the many photos that the National Park Service has displayed at the memorial. Visit it for yourself, or check out the memorial’s
Facebook page to see many more historic photos. Every South Dakotan has surely visited Mount Rushmore National Memorial at least once. What’s your favorite memory of Mount Rushmore?