11 Essential Talking Points for Mount Rushmore Enthusiasts

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Gutzon Borglum began carving Mount Rushmore on this date in 1927. Here's everything you need to know about the famous tourist attraction.

1. New Yorker Charles Rushmore’s curiosity made him famous. During an 1885 visit to South Dakota, the mining lawyer asked locals what a particular mountain was called. The response? "We will name it now, and name it Rushmore Peak."

2. In the early 1920s, historian Doane Robinson conceived of the monument as a tourist draw for the Black Hills. He enlisted sculptor Gutzon Borglum to carve it.

3. Borglum originally planned to carve only Washington and Lincoln, but he added Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt for a manifest destiny theme.

4. Carving began in 1927—it took just three years to finish Washington. The monument was gradually dedicated as each head was completed.

5. Jefferson initially sat to Washington’s right. When Borglum realized the stone wasn’t strong enough, he blasted away the sculpture and started a new Jefferson.

6. In 1937, Congress briefly considered adding Susan B. Anthony to the mountain. The expense stopped them.

7. The final tab: $989,992.32

8. Borglum died in March 1941, just months before the work’s completion that October. His son Lincoln finished up the project.

9. The National Park Service refused to let Alfred Hitchcock shoot North by Northwest’s climax on the mountain. Undeterred, Hitchcock built a giant model and shot the sequence in a studio.

10. The presidents’ faces went unwashed until 2005, when a pressure-spraying company donated a cleaning to blast away lichen and grime.

11. Doane’s tourism plan worked. Nearly three million people visit Mount Rushmore each year.

This article originally appeared in mental_floss magazine. Download our new iPad app and get a free issue of the digital version!

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October 4, 2012 - 11:46am
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