Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

On March 3, 1925, Congress passed legislation which granted authorization of the carving of Mount Rushmore. A similar state bill was passed in the South Dakota Legislature and signed by Governor Gunderson just two days there after. The legislation, known as the Mount Harney National Memorial bill, had been twice defeated before its narrow passage.

Gutzon Borglum had selected the location in the Black Hills as he felt its dimensions suited the scope of his project. However, the original idea for such a monument came from Doane Robinson, then the State Historian for South Dakota. Robinson had preferred carvings of heroic figures of the west, including Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, or Buffalo Bill Cody. When Robinson invited Borglum to South Dakota to explore the idea, Borglum instead insisted that the carvings should be a “national monument commemorating America’s founders and builders.”

Shortly after Congress authorized Mt. Rushmore’s carving, the Mount Harney Memorial Association was established to raise funds for the project. The association also selected the monument’s figures—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln—as they best represented the expansion and preservation of the United States. Carving on the memorial would begin in 1927 alongside a formal dedication by President Coolidge on August 10 of that year.

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On November 9, 1992, South Dakota officially dropped its monicker as “The Sunshine State” and became known as “The Mount Rushmore State.” As chronicled by the Black Hills Pioneer, then State Representative Chuck Mateer of Belle Fourche introduced legislation in January of 1992 to change the state’s nickname. Opponents of the legislation including then State Representative Mary Edelen of Vermillion argued that it would make non-residents believe South Dakota to be  “frozen tundra.”

South Dakota had several nicknames prior to being dubbed both “The Sunshine State” and “The Mount Rushmore State.” Perhaps the state’s earliest nickname was the “Coyote State,”  which is believed to have been inspired by a horse race rather than the wild animal. In 1863, a solider from the 6th Iowa Cavalry and another from Company A of the Dakota Cavalry raced horses at Fort Randall. The Iowa soldier’s horse lost by a long shot, which cause an onlooker to remark “that the Dakota horse ran like a coyote,” thus inspiring the state’s nickname.

About 30 years later, South Dakota acquired a new nickname during a drought. The state’s first governor, Arthur C. Mellette, had embarked on a trip to Chicago in search of aid for his state when he ran into a newspaperman and personal friend, Moses P. Handy. Handy asked the governor how his state was faring, to which Mellette replied “Oh, South Dakota is a swinged cat, better than she looks.” Accounts of the incident indicated that Mellette meant “singed” or “burnt” when he said “swinged.” Shortly thereafter, the Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper published a story citing Mellette “governor of the swinged cat state.”

Additional historical nicknames assigned to South Dakota can be viewed on the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation’s website.

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On September 17, 1937, the face of Abraham Lincoln was the third presidential likeness completed on Mount Rushmore. The face of Thomas Jefferson was completed just one year earlier, while George Washington was completed in 1930. Theodore Roosevelt’s face would not be completed until 1939.

Our nation’s 16th president was born in 1809 on his father’s Sinking Spring Farm in rural Kentucky. President Lincoln is best remembered for his efforts during the Civil War, and believed his greatest duty was preserving the union. Lincoln is also remembered for the abolition of slavery.

Mount Rushmore is one of many monuments across the country which either memorialize his presidency or bear his likeness. The first memorial to President Lincoln is located above the Sinking Spring near his birthplace. Most notably, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. was completed in January of 1920. The monument includes several unique features, including the inscription of the 36 states in the union at the time of Lincoln’s death along the building’s frieze as well as 38 fluted Doric columns.

To learn more about Mount Rushmore, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s digital historical archive.

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In August 1924, South Dakota Department of History Superintendent Doane Robinson invited Gutzon Borglum to the Black Hills to discuss a “heroic sculpture of unusual character.” In a letter to Borglum, Robinson indicated that there were a wide variety of opportunities for large sculptures in the vicinity of present-day Black Elk Peak in Custer State Park.

It didn’t take Borglum long to respond to Robinson’s request. In his response, Borglum told Robinson that he was ahead of schedule in his current work in the South and would travel to the Black Hills in September.

Holding true to his word, Borglum toured Custer State Park where he climbed what was then known as Harney Peak and stayed the night at Sylvan Lake. His initial visit brought widespread attention to the idea of creating enormous sculptures in the Black Hills. Borglum visited the Black Hills again in 1925 when he discovered Mount Rushmore. From that point on, Robinson played an instrumental role in ensuring that Borglum’s vision for the mountain became a reality.

To learn more about Mount Rushmore, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s digital history archive. The South Dakota State Historical Society hosts an extensive collection of Doane Robinson’s correspondence and manuscripts on their website.

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On August 30th, 1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt attended the dedication ceremony for the head Thomas Jefferson’s at Mount Rushmore. According to South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Roosevelt was already in the region touring regions that were devastated by the drought of the 1930s.

Roosevelt regarded his visit to the monument as an informal affair, as he didn’t view the natural setting as an appropriate venue for pomp and circumstance. During his succinct remarks, Roosevelt spoke of the monument’s tenacity and asked attendants to “meditate and wonder what our descendants...will think of us.” He hoped that future generations would reflect kindly on previous generations and take note of their hard work and labor in preserving American soil.

The completion of the Jefferson sculpture marked the monument’s second complete face. George Washington’s sculpture was finished six years prior to Jefferson’s. Originally, Jefferson was to be located to Washington’s left, but sculptors found the stone there too weak and relocated Jefferson to Washington’s right. Lincoln’s likeness was completed shortly after Jefferson in 1937. Teddy Roosevelt was the last to be completed in 1939.

View more photos of Mount Rushmore on the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s digital archives.

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To date, more tourists have visited the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in 2017 than at the same time last year. According to KOTA News, attendance has increased 1.1 percent from 2016. The most-attended day at Mount Rushmore was July 3rd, which increased by 5.3 percent over last year.

The increase in attendance is notable as many national parks have seen a decline in visitors in 2017 following last year’s centennial celebration. Attendance at nearby Yellowstone National Park decreased by five percent this year to date.

To read more about tourism in the Black Hills, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive. Learn more about Mount Rushmore on the Black Hills Knowledge Network digital history archive.

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On August 11, 1952 a commemorative stamp of Mount Rushmore was released by the United States Postal Service in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the creation of the monument. The first stamp of Mount Rushmore (pictured above) is based on a photo taken by Robert Frankenfeld, the father of Rapid City businessman Don Frankenfeld, according to the Congressional Record on June 3, 1991. The stamp was valued at three cents.

Mount Rushmore has been featured on postage stamps on four occasions:  in 1974 on a 26-cent stamp, on the monument’s 50th anniversary in 1991 on a 29-cent stamp, and in 2008, on a  priority stamp valued at $4.80.

Prior to the creation of commemorative stamps, postage designs were limited to U.S. Presidents and founding fathers. Commemorative stamps were first issued in 1893. The USPS Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee is tasked with selecting commemorative stamps each year. Although they use twelve basic selection criteria as a guide, the postmaster general has the final say in selecting commemorative stamps.  

View more historical information about Mount Rushmore at the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s digital history archives.

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Beginning on August 28, 2017 the fee for the senior citizen lifetime national park pass will increase from $10 to $80, reports KOTA News. The fee was increased through the National Park Service Centennial Act, which was passed by Congress in 2016.

The additional revenue generated through the fee increase will establish an endowment to fund park projects and visitor services.

The lifetime national park pass can be purchased by U.S. citizens over the age of 62 and can be used at any national park in the United States. National parks in the Black Hills region include the Mount Rushmore National Monument, Badlands National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Wind Cave National Park, and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

For more information on national parks in the Black Hills region, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.

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On May 2, 1943, Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie gave an impassioned speech at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Willkie spoke critically of individuals with a “get mine” attitude concerning U.S. involvement in World War II, as reported by the New York Times. Willkie probed the crowd:  “Do you allow the annoyance of a truculent and everspreading bureaucracy to deflect you from your own duty? Do you permit the resentment of some in high places to legitimate criticism to embitter you into sloth and inaction?”

Three years prior to his speech below Mount Rushmore, Willkie ran against Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election. A former Democrat who registered as a Republican shortly before the nomination, Willkie was an outsider to the GOP pool of presidential candidates. Republican Party leadership favored three other leading candidates: Senators Robert A. Taft of Ohio and Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan as well as Manhattan District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey.

At the Republican Convention, Willkie drew broad support from the public, but much of the Republican Party cast an eye of doubt upon him and instead favored the more conventional candidates. While Dewey had anticipated winning enough votes for the nomination on the first ballot, he fell several votes short. As additional ballots were cast, Dewey’s margin continued to narrow while Willkie’s widened. In the fifth ballot, Willkie secured 429 total votes and went on to cinch the nomination in the sixth and final ballot.

While Willkie gained broad support in a number of hours at the convention, he was by no means as successful in the general election. Ultimately, Willkie received just 22 million votes to Roosevelt’s 27 million—and only 82 Electoral College votes to Roosevelt’s 449. Roosevelt had successfully secured an unprecedented third term in office.

Willkie made another presidential bid in 1944., but would not live to see the election. Willkie died in October 1944 of coronary thrombosis at the age of 52. 

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In 2016, 4.5 million individuals visited national parks within South Dakota, reports the Black Hills Pioneer. Mount Rushmore National Memorial drew the largest number of visitors at 2.4 million, followed by Badlands National Park at 996,263 visitors. The total number of visitors to South Dakota’s national parks in the state can be viewed below: 

National Park Visitors in 2016
Mount Rushmore National Memorial 2,431,231
Badlands National Park 996,263
Wind Cave National Memorial 617,377
Jewel Cave National Monument 137,275
Minuteman Missile National Historic District 133,895
Missouri National Recreation River 148,210

Visitors to the Rushmore State’s national parks helped boost the state’s economy with $292 million spent in communities surrounding the parks. Overall, visitor spending contributed $377 million to local economies, according to the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics Report.

Read more about National Park Service visitors at the agency’s statistics site. Learn more about the environment and conservation in the Black Hills region at the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s Issue Hub page

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In the final days of February 1929, exactly one week before leaving office, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill allocating $250,000 to the ambitious task of carving the figures of four former presidents into Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills. By signing this bill into law, Coolidge promised the Black Hills community and the rest of the nation that the project would be completed, and that promise forever changed the Black Hills.

Just two years earlier, Coolidge and his wife Grace vacationed in the beautiful hills, staying in the State Game Lodge at Custer State Park. While there, the couple enjoyed attending rodeos, fishing in the streams, and even getting a little lost in the woods.

Many in the area strived for the president’s attention including Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who recently took on the carving project at Mount Rushmore and delved into it whole-heartedly. The ever-theatrical Borlgum decided to invite Coolidge to a ceremony at his mountain canvas by renting a plane, flying above the president’s summer residence and air-dropping an invitation. Borglum’s plan succeeded and Coolidge attended the ceremony dedicating the beginning of construction by bestowing Borglum with six ceremonial drill bits. Coolidge, sporting his new cowboy boots, gave a speech in praise of the project by stating “…the people of the future will see history and art combined to portray the spirit of patriotism.”

It took fourteen years, 400 men and women, and the blasting of nearly 450,000 tons of rock to carve the “Shrine of Democracy.” Today, Mount Rushmore breathes life into the Black Hills tourist economy and provides millions of visitors every year with a beautiful view and a classic family photo. 

To learn more about Calvin Coolidge and his visit to the Black Hills please visit Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online exhibit 1927: Calvin Coolidge and the Summer White House. View more historical photos of Mount Rushmore on the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s Digital Archives

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October 31 marked the 75th anniversary of the completion of Mount Rushmore, as reported by TIME Magazine. Although the monument did not resemble sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s original model at the time of completion, the monument was still declared finished as it was clear national resources would soon be directed toward World War II.

Mount Rushmore took a total of 14 years to complete. When the project commenced in 1927, President Calvin Coolidge officially dedicated the monument. Individual dedications of each president followed in later years.  

Known as "the Shrine of Democracy," the monument has attracted millions of visitors each year. It has also been a focal point for controversy and debate at times. Gutzon Borglum was a known member of the Ku Klux Klan, while American Indians have taken issue with the desecration of sacred land that was unlawfully stolen by the government.

To read more recent news about Mount Rushmore, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive. If you'd like to view more historical photos of Mount Rushmore, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network's digital archives

You can learn more about President Coolidge’s visit to the Black Hills at the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s Calvin Coolidge Exhibit.  

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Friday, 16 September 2016 00:00

Preservation Team Working on Mount Rushmore

A team of preservation experts from the National Parks Service is currently laying new tracking equipment across Mount Rushmore. The Rapid City Journal reports that the purpose of the new fiber optic equipment is to track any new shifts or cracks that appear on the monument so that any decay or rock abnormalities can be fixed quickly and accurately. The old copper lines that were previously on the mountain only updated so often while the new lines will deliver near instantaneous data.

To read up on past news articles related to Mount Rushmore, be sure to click on this archives link.

For more information on Rushmore itself, check out the monument's homepage.

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Thursday, 07 July 2016 00:00

Parking At Mount Rushmore Changes Hands

The National Park Service (NPS) recently accepted the bid of Colorado-based company, Xanterra Parks and Resorts Inc. Xanterra and NPS entered into a ten-year contract in which Xanterra will be responsible for managing "parking, food, beverage and retail operations." According to a Rapid City Journal article, the fee for parking will be reduced from $11 to $10 for the duration of the contract. Seniors will receive a 50 percent discount, and parking will be free for active-duty U.S. military members.

Previous to this, parking has been managed by the Mount Rushmore Society, a local charitable organization. 

For more news on Mount Rushmore National Park, please visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network's online news archives.

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Tourists have been visiting the Black Hills in greater numbers than last year, reports KOTA.

Visitors to the Badlands National Park show the largest increase in numbers, with a 16% increase in visitors over last year.  Visitors to Mount Rushmore are up by 13%, and other National Parks in the region are showing a 10% increase.  If the numbers continue throughout July and August, it could be a record breaking year for tourism in the Black Hills.

For more information on tourism, please visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network news archive.

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The Partners in Preservation Campaign, a program funded by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, are allowing people to vote on which historic site inside a national park should receive some of $2 million in preservation grants. According to a Rapid City Journal article, people can vote once a day for up to five parks until July 5th. Grant requests range from $97,000 to $250,000.

Among the historic sites competing for the grant money is the Borglum View Terrace at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This is a $250,000 grant request.

For more news on historic preservation, please visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network's online news archive.

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The Rapid City Journal has published a complete listing of all events happening across the Black Hills region from Memorial Day through September. With the 75th anniversary of Mount Rushmore coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Forest Service and national park system, this summer could be a busy year for the area and the multitude of events happening over the next four months reflects this anticipation.

Click on this archives link for past news articles related to the U.S. Forest Service.

For more information on recreational opportunities in Rapid City, be sure to check out this Knowledge Network resource page

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A chemical commonly found in fireworks has likely contaminated water and soil near Mount Rushmore National Memorial, researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey have found. The chemical, perchlorate, is attributed to Independence Day fireworks displays held between 1998 and 2009, reports KEVN-TV

The USGS and National Park Service studied perchlorate and metals associated with fireworks in 106 water and 11 soil samples, according to a news release from the USGS.  Perchlorate concentrations were greatest in samples collected from the northeast side of the memorial, and scientists found perchlorate in soil where the fireworks were launched and where the debris landed.

At high levels in drinking water, perchlorate can interfere with the function of the human thyroid gland.

The hydrologist who was the lead author of the report said that when fireworks debris landed on the ground, perchlorate seeped into groundwater. He said the chemical is expected to be in the water around Mount Rushmore until contaminated water moves naturally out of the area. 

Officials say the drinking water at Mount Rushmore is not contaminated. 

Read more about environment and conservation on Black Hills Knowledge Network

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Twelve years into the carving of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, sculptor Korzack Ziolkowski left his home in the Boston area for South Dakota, reported the Christian Science Monitor on May 3, 1939. 

At the time, Ziolkowski held a position as judge of sculpture for the New York World's Fair, where he had three pieces on display. His marble sculpture of Polish prime minister Ignacy Jan Paderewski would win first prize. 

Ziolkowski assisted Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum, although it isn't clear for how long. The carving of Mount Rushmore ended soon after Borglum died in 1941.

Media reports of his work at Mount Rushmore and his World's Fair prize prompted Chief Henry Standing Bear and other leaders to ask Ziolkowski to create a monument to tribal leaders. "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, too," Standing Bear is reported to have said to Ziolkowski. 

On May 3, 1947, Ziolkowski moved to South Dakota to begin work on Crazy Horse Memorial, a sculpture that remains in progress near Custer as his children and others work to fulfill his vision. Ziolkowski died in 1982 at age 74, and his wife, Ruth, led work on the Crazy Horse sculpture until her death in 2014. 


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Fourteen years after he began carving Mount Rushmore, sculptor Gutzon Borglum died at age 73 in Chicago after surgery.

The son of Mormon Danish immigrants, Danish-American Gutzon Borglum was born in 1867 in St. Charles in what was then Idaho Territory, according to Wikipedia. Borglum was a child of Mormon polygamy. His father, Jens Møller Haugaard Børglum, had two wives when he lived in Idaho: Gutzon's mother and Gutzon's mother's sister, who was Jens's first wife. Jens decided to leave Mormonism and moved back to Omaha, Neb. Jens worked mainly as a woodcarver before leaving Idaho to attend the Saint Louis Homeopathic Medical College in Saint Louis, Mo.

Upon his graduation from the Missouri Medical College in 1874, Dr. Borglum moved the family to Fremont, Neb., where he established a medical practice. Gutzon Borglum remained in Fremont until 1882, when his father enrolled him in St. Mary's College in Kansas. After a brief stint at Saint Mary's College, Gutzon Borglum relocated to Omaha where he apprenticed in a machine shop and graduated from Creighton Preparatory School.

Borglum was trained in Paris at the Académie Julian, where he came to know Auguste Rodin and was influenced by Rodin's impressionistic light-catching surfaces. Back in the U.S. in New York City, he had a sculpture accepted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1906 -- the first sculpture by a living American for the museum.

He began work at Mount Rushmore in 1927. His first attempt with the face of Thomas Jefferson was blown up after two years. Borglum alternated exhausting on-site supervising of work with world tours, raising money and polishing his personal legend. His son Lincoln Borglum supervised work in his father's absence.

After his father's death, Lincoln Borglum finished another season at Rushmore but left the monument largely in the state of completion it had reached under his father's direction.

Read more about Mount Rushmore on the Black Hills Knowledge Network.



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