Mt. Rushmore FAQ

Q: Who are the four Presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore?

  • From left to right: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln

Q: Why were those 4 Presidents chosen?

  • Washington: for leading the 13 colonies to independence and for being our first President
  • Jefferson: for writing the Declaration of Independence and for doubling the size of the US through the Louisiana Purchase
  • Roosevelt: for expanding international commerce with the completion of the Panama Canal and for creating our first National Parks
  • Lincoln: for keeping the Union together and freeing the slaves

Q: How long did it take to carve Mount Rushmore?

  • It took 14 years, from 1927-1941

Q: What are the size and dimensions of the faces?

  • From top of head to end of chin: 60 ft.
  • Nose: 20 ft.
  • Mouth: 18 ft. wide
  • Each eye: 11 ft.wide
  • Height of Mt. Rushmore: 500 ft.

Q: Who came up with the idea for Mount Rushmore?

  • It was Doane Robinson, South Dakota state historian who had the original idea for Mount Rushmore.

Q: Who designed Mount Rushmore?

  • Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum (March 25, 1867 – March 6, 1941). Borglum was an American artist and sculptor famous for creating the monumental presidents’ heads at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, the famous carving on Stone Mountain near Atlanta, as well as other public works of art. Borglum and Luigi Del Bianco worked together for more than 20 years, until Borglum’s death in 1941. In an interview in 1966, Luigi Del Bianco had this to say about Borglum: “It was a sad, sad day when my master died,” he said, with eyes misted and voice filled with emotion. “The world lost a great genius.”

Q: How much did the carving of Mount Rushmore cost?

  • It cost approx. 1 million dollars.

Q: How was the carving funded?

  • Through local, state and federal funding, not to mention Gutzon Borglum’s own pocket.

Q: How many people worked on the mountain?

  • 360 to 400 men worked on Rushmore as drillers, carvers, powder men, laborers, etc.

Q: What was the average worker’s salary?

  • Anywhere from .45 cents to .75 cents an hour

Q: Who was paid the highest salary?

  • Luigi Del Bianco, as Chief Carver, was paid 1.50 an hour.

Q: How exactly were the giant faces carved?

It was a 5 part process:*

  1. Pointing:  The method of transferring the measurements from a model to the block of stone to be carved. The Rushmore models were 5 feet high. Gutzon Borglum made a special pointing machine for the models that measured in inches the distances he would need to transfer to the mountain. He also made a second pointing machine 12 times bigger for the 60 foot faces to be carved. 
The measurements were transferred from the pointing machine of the model to the pointing machine of the faces at a ratio of 1:12. To see a photo about of this, click here.
  2. Blasting: Because the faces were so big, it would have taken forever to carve them by hand. Gutzon Borglum came up with an ingenious method of using sticks of dynamite to blast away bits of granite. Under Borglum’s guidance, workers soon got the technique down to a science. They were able to start the shaping the faces by just the right size explosions. This was achieved by cutting the sticks of dynamite to the correct length, thus translating to a certain amount rock to be removed. It was risky but it paid off.
  3. Drilling: After the blasting was completed, special pneumatic drills designed by Borglum were used to remove granite and roughly shape the faces.  Workers would drill down to within six inches of the finished surfaces of the heads. Hammer and chisel were just too small for these giant faces.
  4. Honeycombing: The method of drilling grids of very shallow and closely spaced holes and breaking out the material between. This bought the carving down to the very near finished “skin” of the faces. Honeycombing was really the beginning of the carving process. To see a photo of Luigi “honeycombing” click here
  5. Finishing: This was done by carvers using “bumpers”- light, handheld pneumatic hammers driving short steel shafts tipped with four sharp stubby fingers that chattered against the granite and removed it by a fraction of an inch and by the ounce. This last method is the most important because it gave the faces their life like appearance.

*Information taken from Rex Alan Smith’s book The Carving of Mount Rushmore

Q: Why is Luigi Del Bianco’s contribution unique?

  • Luigi Del Bianco was an Italian immigrant who worked on an iconic “American” Memorial.
  • He was, in the words of Gutzon Borglum, “….the only intelligent, efficient, stone carver on the work who understands the language of the sculptor. . . .”
  • Luigi Del Bianco was a classically trained stone carver who helped Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum train former mine workers to be carvers, drillers or any skill required to get the job done.

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