Mount Rushmore - History and Facts | History Hit

Mount Rushmore

South Dakota, South Dakota, United States

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota is an iconic monument to four of the Presidents of the United States of America.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: critterbiz/

About Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore is a granite mountain in Keystone, South Dakota carved with the heads of four of the Presidents of the USA.

Mount Rushmore history

Begun in 1927, the work to create Mount Rushmore was carried out by 400 sculptors. It was intended that each figure be shown from the waist upwards, but the project ended prematurely in 1941 when funds ran out.

The site is one of the world’s largest pieces of sculpture, as well as one of America’s most popular tourist attractions. To many Native Americans, however, Mount Rushmore represents a desecration of lands considered sacred by the Lakota Sioux, the original residents of the Black Hills region who were displaced by white settlers and gold miners in the late 19th century.

In the Treaty of Fort Laramie, signed in 1868 by Sioux tribes and General William T. Sherman, the U.S. government promised the Sioux “undisturbed use and occupation” of territory including the Black Hills, in what is now South Dakota. But the discovery of gold in the region soon led large numbers of US prospectors to flock there, and the US government began forcing the Sioux to relinquish their claims on the Black Hills.

A concerted Sioux resistance was mustered yet eventually crushed by federal troops in a brutal massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890. Ever since then, Sioux activists have protested the US confiscation of their ancestral lands, and demanded their return. The Black Hills (or Paha Sapa in Lakota) are particularly important to them, as the region is central to many Sioux religious traditions.

South Dakota State Historian Doane Robinson conceived the concept of Mount Rushmore in 1923, the idea being to create a monumental attraction in the Black Hills of South Dakota to attract tourists to the area. His original idea was of a large-scale sculpture of Indian leaders and key early American explorers who helped discover the frontier. When he reached out to artist Gutzon Borglum in 1924, it was Borglum’s idea to honor four great presidents instrumental in America’s early existence, along with a brief history of the country on an adjoining tablet.

The four figures represented at Mount Rushmore are the first US President and founding father George Washington (1732-1799), third president and also a founding father Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), sixteenth President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) and twenty-sixth President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919).

Mount Rushmore today

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, sometimes called the “Shrine of Democracy,” has become one of the most iconic images of America and an international tourist attraction. In 1959, it gained even more attention as the site of a climactic chase scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s film “North by Northwest.”

Meanwhile, many Sioux activists have called for the monument to be taken down, as they continue to protest what they view as illegal US possession of their ancestral lands. In response to the monument, a Native American memorial is currently being built, honouring one of the most iconic Native American warriors who helped lead the Sioux resistance – the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial sees over two million visitors a year from across the country and around the world. There are guided tours of Mount Rushmore or visitors can rent an audio guide.

Getting to Mount Rushmore

Visitors travelling on I-90 should exit at Rapid City and follow Highway 16 southwest to Keystone and then Highway 244 to Mount Rushmore. Visitors coming from the south should follow Highway 385 north to Highway 244, which is the road leading to the memorial.

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