Borglum & “Bianco” / The Borglum Papers

Below are chronological highlights of Luigi Del Bianco’s role as chief carver on the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial.  All of the writing is from the designer, Gutzon Borglum.

 They are actual excerpts from “The Borglum Papers” in the Library of Congress and the National Archives in Washington, D.C.. The papers were discovered by Luigi’s son, Caesar after extensive research.

JUNE 3, 1933

. . . Bianco has all of Villa’s ability plus power and honesty-and dependability — we could double our progress if we could have two like Bianco . . .
. . .Now I have decided we must keep Bianco and keep him happy. If he were working for me I would pay him eleven or tweleve dollars. I want him to receive a dollar an hour. You may charge me with the difference. The help he is, the ability to understand is worth much more to the work.

Gutzon Borglum

OCTOBER 10, 1933

Luigi del Bianco, Chief carver,
in charge of all Close Drilling and Carving.
Your duty is to give all your attention and study to the carving of the Jefferson head and removing the stone between the Jefferson head and the Washington head. . . .

Gutzon Borglum,
Sculptor and Engineer

JULY 30, 1935

Re-organization No. 2

William Tallman
Please post this in the dining room for the men. All drilling of all kinds, roughing, finishing and carving of features must be directed by the chief stone carver and his directions followed. The chief carver will be held responsible for the ways and the means for removing and finishing the sculpture. . . . I have appointed Luigi Bianco for this most important task.

JULY 1935

. . . He is worth any three men I could find in America, for this particular type of work, here and now, but Mount Rushmore is not managed that way and doesn’t want that kind of service. He entirely out-classed everyone on the hill, and his knowledge was an embarrassment to their amateur efforts and lack of knowledge, lack of experience and lack of judgment. He is the only man besides myself who has been on the work who knows the problems and how to instantly solve them. His absence is a great loss to this work this year. . . .

. . . The loss of Bianco will probably prevent the finishing of the Washington and Jefferson heads this year. . . .

JULY 31, 1935

. . . I have just received a note from from Bianco, resigning tonight. 
I called Billy, Bianco and Lincoln together and discussed the situation. 
This quitting revives the old policy of “penny wisdom and pound foolishness” that has threatened the wreck of the Black Hills mountain sculpture from its beginning. . . .

. . . In the absence of a highly trained competent executive who knows sculpture, I yesterday posted an order, dividing the responsibility of the work under the two or three trained minds that I have on the mountain, placing the removal of all granite, methods of removal, form and use of tools, under Bianco; all measurements of every kind what so ever and the full responsibility of any faults in measurements not provided for drillers on Lincoln. Handling the work preparing the scaffolds, providing tools, under Johnson. Billy to remain as general aid to all and special assistant to Lincoln, he asked for that. . . .

. . . I have given orders that no powder shall be used or shots fired that are not approved by both Bianco and Lincoln . . . .

. . . As far as I am concerned, I shall let Bianco go. I am not going to make up his wages, nor the wages of anybody else. I have spent the last money that I shall spend running into many, many thousands, for the sole purpose of lifting a standard here, a burden I should never have had to carry and cannot continue.

. . . His leaving will stop all work on the features of Washington and Jefferson.

DECEMBER 19, 1935

. . . Monument has been produced without the trained aids originally contracted for and also without any trained stone men what so ever- one summer of Bianco’s aid was not enough to make any appreciable difference . . .


. . . I returned Bianco to his work this morning as Chief Carver, and granite expert, at a dollar and fifty cents per hour.
He will have complete charge of the practical ways and means of dealing with the finesse of carving and instructing the other carvers, in the ways and means of handling this particular stone. . . .


Bianco, as you know, is back, and his presence emphasizes the frightful handicap this work labors under. He is the only intelligent, efficient stone carver on the work who understands the language of the sculptor.

SEPTEMBER 17, 1936

. . . The plans for the remaining approximate two months of good weather are to finish completely the face of Washington with all refinements of expression; this work being in the hands of Mr. Borglum and the one stone carver on the work, Bianco. . . .

NOVEMBER 19, 1936

. . . There are only two men on the entire job who came to us as master workman; those are Bianco, carver, trained by me for the past 12 years in the east and our blacksmith, a master of his job. . . .

AUGUST 26, 1936 (telegram)


FEBRUARY 28, 1938

. . . For the purpose of Washington’s “red tape”, a portion of our better men are designated as carvers; there are no carvers on the mountain—there never have been but one and he refused to return because of the chronic sabotage directed at him by influences in Rapid City, and the Park Department. We have no men on the mountain except my son who can read or understand contours, curvatures, and sculptural modeling necessary to direct the carver. Work on all the heads has been automatically stopped where the carving of the features required intelligence not available in Rapid City or by local workman. . . .


. . . Lincoln Borglum Pointer in Charge.

You will hold yourself in readiness to assist Bianco in all pointing. . . .

. . . I want the work on the face of Washington finished(by Bianco)
beginning ten inches from the hairline proceed downward . . . .

. . . Tallman will aid you and Bianco with scaffold and men in every way, promptly as necessary. . . .

MAY 7, 1940

Mr. Luigi Del Bianco
108 South Regent St
Port Chester, NY 10573

Dear Bianco,
I wish you would come as soon as you can if you want to be of help to me. I must finish the faces by the 1st of July—and all of them. I need you.
Your pay will be exactly what it was before, and there will be no reductions from it. You are the only man who is on that pay.

Sincerely Yours,
Gutzon Borglum
Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission

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