Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument

If I had to describe our visit to Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument in one word, it would be colossal.  The magnitude of both projects is hard to comprehend.  Most of us have heard of the Mount Rushmore monument, the faces of four presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt) carved into the granite of Mount Rushmore.

The original idea by Doane Robinson, a South Dakota historian, was to carve the faces of Old West heroes into the Needles, spirelike formations in the Black Hills.  He approached sculptor Gutzon Borglum with the idea.  It was Borglum, who chose Mount Rushmore, instead, because of its size and  orientation to the morning and midday sun.  He also thought it was more fitting to choose famous leaders of our nation for such a monumental project.  Gutzon Borglum's own words were, "Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were."

Here is a closer view, as well as a profile of George Washington, taken later in the day from the road.

Ninety percent of the carving was done with dynamite, and over 400 men, mostly from the ranks of the unemployed, worked on it under the guidance of Borglum. Over 450,00 tons of rock was blasted from the mountain.  The actual work began in 1927 and was completed in October of 1941 by Borglum's son, Lincoln Borglum, six months after his father's death.

Not far from Mount Rushmore is the Crazy Horse Memorial, whose mission is "to protect and preserve the culture, tradition, and living heritage of the North American Indians."

As you can see, this project is still in progress, but when finished "will stand 563 feet tall as a bold sculpture of the Lakota leader, Crazy Horse, a revered warrior, who was instrumental in the Battle of the Little Big Horn."  In 1939, Lakota Chief Standing Bear invited sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski to come to the Black Hills to carve the sculpture. The project soon became Ziolkowski's life work.  He and his wife raised 10 children, all of whom grew up to help with the carving in various ways.

Below are two versions of what the finished monument will look like.  Because this project has no federal or state funding the progress is much slower, but no less impassioned.  The carving began in 1941.  Crazy Horse's face was completed in 1998, and the current focus is on Crazy Horse's hand and the horse's mane.

Before I end this post, I'll add another photo of the beautiful Black Hills region... well as a sculpture of three children I saw in the town of Keystone at the base of Mount Rushmore.  I don't know what they're doing, but I'd like to think they're reading a book.

Tomorrow Doug and I move on to Nebraska to visit a high school friend of mine.  


  1. This must be really impressive in person! I'm enjoying tagging along with you.

    1. Yes, Cathy, it's very impressive for its sheer size and more!


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