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The Faces of Mount Rushmore

Looking out onto the beauty of the Black Hills stands a granite mountain with four sculpted faces. But who are these four faces? And why were they selected to be on one of America’s most iconic memorials?

I went to school in Colorado my freshman year of college and was shocked at how many people didn’t know where Mount Rushmore was or couldn’t name the presidents on the mountain. However, not everyone grew up with this memorial in their backyard like I did. So, if you’re curious as to who and why – keep reading. 

Gutzon Borglum, the artist behind Mount Rushmore, chose the following four men to be carved into the mountain because he felt they symbolized major events in the shaping of our country and the true spirit of our nation.

The First Face – George Washington

  • George Washington’s face was the first to be carved on Mount Rushmore.
  • The Washington Carving was officially dedicated on July 4, 1930.

George_2.jpg

Why he made the mountain:

A leader of the American Revolutionary War and instrumental in the birth of our nation, George Washington was elected to be the first President of the United States in 1789. He was reluctant to take the position knowing the challenges the new nation would face and feared he wasn’t the right man for the job. Washington was unanimously elected by the 69 electors to lead the new United States of American. Washington was president from 1789 to 1797.

The Second Face – Thomas Jefferson

  • The carving of Thomas Jefferson’s face on the mountain originally began on the opposite side of George Washington.
  • After 18 months carvers realized the granite on that part of the mountain was not suitable. Jefferson’s partially carved face was blasted off with dynamite and carving began on the other side of Washington – where you see it now.
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the carving of Jefferson on August 30, 1936.

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Why he made the mountain:

Serving as the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809, Thomas Jefferson was also one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson is credited with inspiring democracy and the western expansion of the country. In 1803, Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory (which included most of present-day South Dakota) from France for $15 million. The expansion doubled the size of our country, prompting Jefferson to send Lewis and Clark on their famed expedition to explore and map out the new territory.

The Third Face – Theodore Roosevelt

  • Theodore Roosevelt’s face was the last to be carved on Mount Rushmore.
  • The Roosevelt carving was dedicated on July 2, 1939.

Teddy_0.jpg

Why he made the mountain:

Theodore Roosevelt served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909. He was a fiery individualist who embodied American culture of the early 1900s and provided leadership during a time of rapid economic growth. His conservationism, willingness to take on big business and progressive policies set the stage for important reforms of the 20th century. Many characterize him as one of the nation’s greatest leaders. Deeply inspired by the Dakota Territory, Roosevelt is also the father of our National Park System, which protects valuable natural resources for generations to enjoy.

The Fourth Face – Abraham Lincoln

  • The face of Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore was officially dedicated on September 17, 1937.

Ab_0.jpg

Why he made the mountain:

Serving as the 16th President of the United States from 1861 to 1865, Abraham Lincoln lead the country through some of its darkest years. Lincoln is considered by many scholars to be the greatest president our nation has ever had. He was instrumental in the abolishment of slavery and is credited with setting in motion the work to preserve the United States after the Civil War. On April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated while attending a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. He died on April 5th.

So there you have it, the men of Mount Rushmore and why they were chosen to be a part of the memorial! Quite an iconic group.

Meet the Author

Kelsy Koerlin

Raised in Rapid City and lucky to call it home, this outdoor enthusiast loves to explore the Black Hills with her two dogs and fiancé. When she’s not at work you’ll find her out hiking, spending time with family, traveling, at a local ice cream shop or brewery, or perhaps home taking a nap.

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Kelsy Koerlin
Social Media and Content Manager

Raised in Rapid City and lucky to call it home, this outdoor enthusiast loves to explore the Black Hills with her two dogs and fiancé. When she’s not at work you’ll find her out hiking, spending time with family, traveling, at a local ice cream shop or brewery, or perhaps home taking a nap.

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