Oct. 31, 1941: Mount Rushmore carving finished


Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln, use a tramway during Mount Rushmore carving (Photo: Charles D’Emery, courtesy …

On Halloween of 1941, carving on South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore was declared complete. The monument, which features the heads of Presidents Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt and Jefferson, was originally intended to show full-body representations of the four presidents. But time and money constraints limited sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who had previously carved the face of Robert E. Lee on Stone Mountain in Georgia.

Construction, using dynamite and involving more than 400 workers, began on Oct. 4, 1927. Washington’s was the first face finished — dedicated on July 4, 1934 — followed by Jefferson in 1936, Lincoln in 1937 and Roosevelt in 1939. However, the mountain monument wasn’t yet complete.

Borglum had planned to include an 80-by-100-foot inscription, but weaknesses in the granite forced him to relocate some of the heads and revise the plan. His new vision included a Hall of Records, carved into the granite in a canyon behind the faces. Ultimately, his plan was for the Declaration of Independence and Constitution to be stored in the hall. Borglum died, though, in the spring of 1941 after only carving 70 feet of the hall. His son Lincoln continued the work, and construction was deemed finished on Oct. 31.

In 1998, the National Park System put finishing touches on the Hall of Records, installing a vault and sixteen porcelain enamel text panels with documents including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution engraved on them.

Today, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial attracts nearly 3 million visitors to the Black Hills every year.

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