MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A viewer recently sent us a question: what’s the history behind Mount Rushmore? Good Question.
The idea behind Mount Rushmore started back in the early 1920s when South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson wanted a way to bring in new tourists.
He first proposed the sculptures at The Needles, a series of granite pillars and towers, but that idea was later rejected due to Native American opposition and the poor quality of the granite.
Robinson brought in sculptor and artist Gutzon Borglum. Together, the two men decided Mount Rushmore would be a better site. (The mountain was named after Charles Rushmore, a New York attorney who had been doing business in the Black Hills).
Robinson had suggested the faces of famous western heroes like Buffalo Bill Cody, Red Cloud, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. But Borglum thought the faces of four popular Presidents would make for a better draw of tourists.
The men decided on George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. The presidents represented various phases of the country – birth, growth, preservation and development, respectively.
The entire project took 14 years and 400 workers.
In 1966, Mount Rushmore was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the National Park Service, three million people visit the site each year.