Mark­ing 75 years of Mount Rush­more

Mon­u­ment a boon for tourism, cre­ativ­ity

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FIFTY PLUS - By Regina Gar­cia Cano

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. >> It was a his­to­rian’s idea: carve gi­gan­tic sculp­tures into the gran­ite pin­na­cles of the Black Hills of South Dakota, sig­nif­i­cant West­ern fig­ures like Lewis and Clark, Buf­falo Bill Cody, Fre­mont, Red Cloud and Saca­gawea.

“In the vicin­ity of Har­ney Peak ... are op­por­tu­ni­ties for heroic sculp­ture of un­usual char­ac­ter,” South Dakota De­part­ment of His­tory Su­per­in­ten­dent Doane Robin­son wrote to a sculp­tor in Ge­or­gia in 1924.

The sculp­tor, Gut­zon Bor­glum, re­de­fined the project en­tirely. Us­ing jack­ham­mers and dy­na­mite, he be­gan in 1927, first sculpt­ing Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton, then Thomas Jef­fer­son, fol­lowed by Abra­ham Lin­coln and fi­nally Theodore Roo­sevelt.

Next month, Mount Rush­more Na­tional Memo­rial marks 75 years of pub­lic per­va­sive­ness, end­ing up in movies and comics and on quar­ter-dol­lar coins.

“Bur­glum told Robin­son, ‘You are not think­ing big enough. West­ern fig­ures? That’s not go­ing to at­tract enough peo­ple. You need to think big­ger,’” said Mau­reen McGee-Ballinger, the memo­rial’s chief of in­ter­pre­ta­tion and ed­u­ca­tion.

Robin­son was look­ing for ways to pro­mote the state, par­tic­u­larly the Black Hills, McGee-Ballinger said. Plan B surely has served that pur­pose, with about 3 mil­lion peo­ple vis­it­ing ev­ery year.

“For the state, and the na­tion, Mount Rush­more is quite iconic,” South Dakota State His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety Di­rec­tor Jay Vogt said. “It def­i­nitely put South Dakota on the map as a des­ti­na­tion ... Be­cause th­ese are elected in­di­vid­u­als on the moun­tain, who worked hard to pre­serve a na­tion whose cre­ation was unique in and of it­self, it re­ally speaks to the idea that we are a coun­try of free peo­ple.”

Along the way, it has also found a place in pop cul­ture. A chase scene in “North by North­west,” Al­fred Hitch­cock’s 1959 clas­sic star­ring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, in­cluded a death-de­fy­ing scram­ble over the pres­i­dents’ faces.

“Al­fred Hitch­cock says he ex­pects to re­al­ize his long am­bi­tion — film­ing a chase over the Mt. Rush­more Mon­u­ment,” The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported in 1958. “He may be spoof­ing, but you never can tell with Hitch­cock.” Some scenes were filmed at the memo­rial, but the climb­ing of the faces were stu­dio shots that used mod­els of the moun­tain.

A 1983 spe­cial an­niver­sary is­sue of the comic “Won­der Woman” fea­tures her face next to the stone Lin­coln. T-shirts with the faces of su­per­heroes in­stead of the pres­i­dents are avail­able at Tar­get and else­where. The memo­rial is a never-end­ing muse for po­lit­i­cal car­toon­ists, and in 2016, there’s been no short­age of memes.

The memo­rial has also been fea­tured in mul­ti­ple coins, in­clud­ing a quar­ter is­sued by the U.S. Mint in 2013 that shows men adding the fin­ish­ing de­tails to Jef­fer­son’s face. The four faces have also been high­lighted in postage stamps, and they are — of course — in the back­ground of South Dakota’s li­cense plates.

To cel­e­brate the mile­stone, the Na­tional Park Ser­vice held events dur­ing the sum­mer in con­nec­tion with its own 100th birth­day.

The memo­rial should be lauded for sev­eral rea­sons, ac­cord­ing to Deb­bie Ke­tel Speas, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for the non­profit Mount Rush­more So­ci­ety, es­pe­cially its im­pact on the state’s tourism in­dus­try and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, as well as the ef­forts of those who worked to make it a re­al­ity.

“When you look at what they achieved over 75 years ago, it’s quite spec­tac­u­lar,” she said.

FILE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this July 22, 1929, file photo, sculp­tor Gut­zon Bor­glum, at left, di­rects drillers sus­pended by ca­bles from the top of the moun­tain as they work on the head of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton at the Mount Rush­more Memo­rial in the Black Hills area near Key­stone, S.D.

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE HIS­TOR­I­CAL SO­CI­ETY VIA AP

This un­dated photo pro­vided by the South Dakota State His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety shows a let­ter dated that then-South Dakota De­part­ment of His­tory Su­per­in­ten­dent Doane Robin­son sent to sculp­tor Gut­zon Bor­glum propos­ing a project in the Black Hills that years later would be­come the Mount Rush­more Na­tional Memo­rial. In Oc­to­ber 2016, the memo­rial that through the years has be­come the state’s most fa­mous at­trac­tion and draws about 3 mil­lion vis­i­tors

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