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Carving Mount Rushmore
November 4, 2011 6:10 AM   Subscribe

"I want to create a monument so inspiring that people from all over America will be drawn to come and look and go home better citizens," said Borglum, in 1927. The Making Of Mount Rushmore.
posted by veedubya (53 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Where's all the faces?"
posted by kmz at 6:14 AM on November 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


My god! He must have been enormous!
posted by griphus at 6:25 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Funny that someone saying this today would be heckled into silence: “Tourists soon get fed up on scenery unless it has something of special interest connected with it to make it impressive"
posted by smackfu at 6:37 AM on November 4, 2011


"I want to create a monument so blatantly insulting to the Lakota-Sioux that it demonstrates the victory of our domination over native peoples."

Fixed.
posted by donquixote at 6:42 AM on November 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


In unrelated monumental statuary news, they've just finished an 8-storey high bust of Soong Ching-ling in Zhengzhou.
posted by Abiezer at 6:46 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Err, well, done the outside bit anyway.
posted by Abiezer at 6:47 AM on November 4, 2011


I don't like the way Teddy Roosevelt is looking at me.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:58 AM on November 4, 2011


Well, it worked: compare South Dakota's annual tourism revenue to that of North Dakota.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:15 AM on November 4, 2011


I want to create a monument so inspiring that when Cary Grant lifts Eva Marie Saint onto the top of it you have no choice but to immediately cut to a hilariously suggestive shot of a train going into a tunnel.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:30 AM on November 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Fail. All I see is ugly hubris.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:30 AM on November 4, 2011


Well, it worked: compare South Dakota's annual tourism revenue to that of North Dakota.

Though to be fair, the Black Hills are a beautiful scenic area that would attract a fair amount of regional tourism even without Mt. Rushmore.
posted by aught at 7:32 AM on November 4, 2011


Years ago, you took the northern route in summer to to California, passing through South Dakota on the way, and then went East, by way of Southern route, to keep warm. North Dakota now has wealth from oil shale and all the hookers flocking there...I will send you a postcard when I get time.
posted by Postroad at 7:32 AM on November 4, 2011


Yeah, I could haul out the snark too, but when I think of how iconically the monument was used in "North by Northwest," the snark fails me.
posted by blucevalo at 7:33 AM on November 4, 2011


It's surprising to see the Smithsonian use the word "panhandler" incorrectly...

"Gold was struck, and a rush of panhandlers began to illegally settle the area."
posted by fairmettle at 7:34 AM on November 4, 2011


North Dakota has the Theodore Roosevelt National Park! It's part of the Badlands and there's actually some pretty nifty scenery out there.

I cannot tell you too much about 'hookers' in the Bakken formation, but I was just in the area myself and it's a boom town with all that that implies.

Mt Rushmore, despite its fraught history, has been on my list of things to see for some time now. I think I'd try to balance by going out to the areas surrounding, maybe that Crazy Horse memorial or whatnot, to get a feel for the broader picture.
posted by librarylis at 7:37 AM on November 4, 2011


I find this monument so very embarrassing. The only thing worse would be if the nut cases get Reagan added, like they want to.
posted by cccorlew at 7:43 AM on November 4, 2011


In case you're wondering, the OED gives two definitions of "panhandler":

1. U.S. (orig. slang). A beggar.
2. U.S. Usu. with capital initial. A native or inhabitant of a panhandle (PANHANDLE n. 1), esp. of the Texas Panhandle.

But if you google there is some support for "panhandler" to describe someone who pans for gold: here, here, here, here. It wouldn't surprise me if some of those guys didn't find any gold and turned into panhandlers in the sense more recognized today.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:44 AM on November 4, 2011


When I was a kid, I remember being underwhelmed by the size of it. I somehow expected it to be much bigger. Much more impressive was the Crazy Horse monument (especially here!), even though it was just a contour in a hill then.
posted by MtDewd at 7:46 AM on November 4, 2011


Oh yeah, Reagan... only thing worse would be Watt up there with him.
posted by MtDewd at 7:48 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


ricochet biscuit : Well, it worked: compare South Dakota's annual tourism revenue to that of North Dakota.

North Dakota tourism dollars: $4.13 billion (2009)
South Dakota tourism dollars: $0.941 billion (2007)

Yeah, take a look at that!
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:48 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I took the liberty of improving Mt. Rushmore last year.
posted by COBRA! at 7:51 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Er, reading further in the South Dakota release, in 2007 they had $2.3 billion in tourism dollars, to compare economic apples-to-apples. Still less than here in ND.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:52 AM on November 4, 2011


I think I'd try to balance by going out to the areas surrounding, maybe that Crazy Horse memorial or whatnot

The Crazy Horse memorial is interesting, but a little underwhelming because it's only maybe 10-15% finished (the face is visible). Drive around the scenic highways in the Black Hills, such as the Needles Highway, Iron Mt Road, Spearfish Canyon road, and the Custer Park Wildlife loop (where one can often see bison and antelope) - that's one of my favorite things in the area. Stopping in Deadwood and putting a couple rolls of nickles into slot machines is often good for an afternoon's entertainment (and there's a cemetary on the hill where you can find the graves of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock), and Hill City and Keystone have a lot of kitchy touristy shops and a historical steam train ride, if you like that sort of thing. Also, Devil's Tower (made famous my Close Encounters of the Third Kind) is not that far away across the Wyoming border.
posted by aught at 7:53 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Stopping in Deadwood and putting a couple rolls of nickles into slot machines is often good for an afternoon's entertainment (and there's a cemetary on the hill where you can find the graves of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock)

I'm sorry, but if I can't get called a cocksucker by the ghost of Al Swearingen, I'm going to call it a disappointment.
posted by COBRA! at 7:55 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The "Touristy-ness" of the Black Hills makes the baby Crazy Horse cry, and damn near destroys any sense of "natural wonder" that other beautiful natural areas have.

Super cool geology there though.
posted by Windopaene at 7:56 AM on November 4, 2011


The episode of History Detectives about a letter between Red Cloud and Borglum is a pretty good one, if you can find it somewhere. Talks about his hubris and the relationship he had with the local populations.
posted by msbutah at 7:57 AM on November 4, 2011


Al Swearingen definitely deserves to have his mug up on that unholy monument more than that cocksucker Reagan.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:59 AM on November 4, 2011


In case you're wondering, the OED gives two definitions of "panhandler":

1. U.S. (orig. slang). A beggar.
2. U.S. Usu. with capital initial. A native or inhabitant of a panhandle (PANHANDLE n. 1), esp. of the Texas Panhandle.

But if you google there is some support for "panhandler" to describe someone who pans for gold: here, here, here, here. It wouldn't surprise me if some of those guys didn't find any gold and turned into panhandlers in the sense more recognized today.


Those are mighty thin references in your links.

Even in the earliest etymological references in the Complete OED, the definitions remain the same as "the sense more recognized today".

However, I did find your play on words amusing, and perhaps that was (the rather obscure) intent of the Smithsonion's usage in the article.
posted by fairmettle at 8:06 AM on November 4, 2011


I was underwhelmed by Mt. Rushmore. Crazy horse was pretty neat. The badlands were okay.

I really enjoyed the drive-through Zoo, "Bear Country USA". I watched the bear cubs frolic for a couple of hours, they were adorable.

We took another trip earlier in the year and it was evidently mating season for the bears. It was like a giant, brown bear orgy. I couldn't stop laughing.

I really liked Devil's tower. I especially liked the part where there was a sign saying, "Helmets required beyond this point." Direct behind the sign was a piece that had fallen off that was about the size of a shipping container.
posted by VTX at 8:06 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


The "Touristy-ness" of the Black Hills makes the baby Crazy Horse cry, and damn near destroys any sense of "natural wonder" that other beautiful natural areas have.


My grandfather used to take us through South Dakota and into Yellowstone every summer when we were kids. Right before Deadwood became crazy he couldn't do it anymore. I'd prefer to remember it the way that it was. That is, just a bit touristy.

Then again, I love me the hell out of some Wall Drug.
posted by fusinski at 8:12 AM on November 4, 2011


I really liked Devil's tower. I especially liked the part where there was a sign saying, "Helmets required beyond this point." Direct behind the sign was a piece that had fallen off that was about the size of a shipping container.

They have really good helmets.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:15 AM on November 4, 2011


Those are mighty thin references in your links.

I know. But the point I'm trying to make is that the Smithsonian article is not the first to use the word "panhandler" in this way.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:21 AM on November 4, 2011


Someday, I intend to see Mt. Rushmore.

An odd topic of daydreams for me is imagining monuments and other creations in stone that could be built to survive thousands of years, to offer clues and information to those people about our history today. So much of our nation's history and culture is ephemeral in nature that were we all to vanish tomorrow, there wouldn't be that much to note three thousand years from now.

And well, yeah, I think about all those wonderful scenes in LoTR involving the remnants of great monuments that offer hints to times long past. I like stone monuments.
posted by Atreides at 8:23 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


For how huge it is, whenever I'm there Mt. Rushmore manages to seem a lot smaller than I expected.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:25 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


In unrelated monumental statuary news, they've just finished an 8-storey high bust of Soong Ching-ling in Zhengzhou.
I always get my Song sisters confused. I was wondering why they would be building a statue of Chiang Kai Shek's wife in the mainland.

Somebody better at FPPs than me should really do one on the Song sisters. Utterly fascinating history.
posted by kmz at 8:31 AM on November 4, 2011


I understand the concern and offense concerning the origins of the sculpture ("Hey nice mountain, oh wait look out FACED!!! White people rule, Indians drool!") but I'm happy that it's early US Presidents instead of permanent stone monuments to say, Paris Hilton or Goldenpalace.com or somesuch.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:32 AM on November 4, 2011


Somebody better at FPPs than me should really do one on the Song sisters. Utterly fascinating history.

I know; kind of sets me in mind of the Mitfords for women who got involved with prominent figures from completely different political backgrounds, but the Song daughters were on an even grander and more dramatic scale.
posted by Abiezer at 8:36 AM on November 4, 2011


The rarely seen other side of Mount Rushmore
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 8:38 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was entertained to see a letter from Gutzon Borglum to Isamu Noguchi a couple years ago because the header of his stationery explained that it came from "BORGLAND". This isn't the letter I saw, but it's the same heading.
posted by with hidden noise at 8:45 AM on November 4, 2011


My biggest disappointment with Rushmore was how it was immediately obvious that not only was there no house on top, there wasn't even a giant Mayan pyramid behind it. I had been lied to by both North by Northwest and National Treasure 2.
posted by Copronymus at 8:46 AM on November 4, 2011


Yeah it's really a pretty rinkadink little hill with some faces on it. You can see the other side, it's not very big at all.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:55 AM on November 4, 2011


Mt. Rushmore was similar to the Leaning Tower of Pisa to me. It's a tourist trap, pure and simple. The idea is compelling, but when you get there, you look at it for about 2 minutes and then you're ready to go, because there is NOTHING ELSE TO DO without getting in a car or on a train and going elsewhere.

I've resolved to avoid things like that in the future.
posted by Hactar at 9:09 AM on November 4, 2011


My biggest disappointment with Rushmore was how it was immediately obvious that not only was there no house on top, there wasn't even a giant Mayan pyramid behind it. I had been lied to by both North by Northwest and National Treasure 2.

The pyramid is beneath it.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:09 AM on November 4, 2011


My biggest disappointment with Rushmore was how it was immediately obvious that not only was there no house on top, there wasn't even a giant Mayan pyramid behind it. I had been lied to by both North by Northwest and National Treasure 2.

Nice try, black market dealer Mitch Wilkinson as played by Ed Harris. Next you'll be telling us Cortex's great-great-great-grandmother was a co-conspirator in the attempted Andrew Jackson assassination.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:14 AM on November 4, 2011


I'm in favour of drilling in from behind the heads, even if it means more cost to the mining franchisees.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:45 AM on November 4, 2011


An odd topic of daydreams for me is imagining monuments and other creations in stone that could be built to survive thousands of years, to offer clues and information to those people about our history today. So much of our nation's history and culture is ephemeral in nature that were we all to vanish tomorrow, there wouldn't be that much to note three thousand years from now.

In thousands of years, when the stone is worn and old, human civilization gone, farers from outer space will come to visit this now–empty Earth. "Hey, Dflurgh, do you see that?" "See what Kudmrt?" "There's a face in that mountain!" "Nonsense, it's called pareidolia, you can see faces in anything." "Huh, I guess just like those tacos with images of the Holy Ftang?" "Yep." Away they fly.
posted by Jehan at 9:49 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


It does my heart good to know that in the distant future, tacos will still exist.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:59 AM on November 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Tacos, sure, but I somehow doubt Ftang will still be a going concern.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:15 AM on November 4, 2011


Okay, maybe because of my background I'm more slanted to like Native American sights, but I was IMPRESSED by crazyhorse, the thing is going to be like 8 times the size of Mt. Rushmore, there's a pretty fun visitor center, and the thing was the sole project of ONE MAN for the first 50 years of its creation. Driving by Mt Rushmore was a let down after that.

Also, two of my favorite times camping were in SW S. Dakota. You used to be able to camp anywhere 50m off the trail in the black hills, so I set up camp just below Harney Peak. Then, like 5:00 in the morning I got up, broke down camp, went up to the tower at the peak, made some oatmeal and watched the sun rise (somewhere over Minnesota) and pink mist roll off the rest of the black hills.
posted by midmarch snowman at 11:03 AM on November 4, 2011


I grew up in the Black Hills and have visited Mount Rushmore more times that I care to count. I prefer to remember it is as it was before Visitor's Center makeover (except for the new trail that goes closer that you could get before).

But now I'd tell you, if you had time for only one, do a drive-by of Mt Rushmore on your way to spending time at Crazy Horse. The story of Ziolkowski and the engaging kitschy atmosphere are entertaining and inspiring. For bonus points go in June during the Volksmarch and you can climb to the top and stand on the arm.
posted by achrise at 11:19 AM on November 4, 2011


The Crazy Horse monument pisses me off, tbh.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:24 PM on November 4, 2011


Mt. Rushmore was similar to the Leaning Tower of Pisa to me. It's a tourist trap, pure and simple. The idea is compelling, but when you get there, you look at it for about 2 minutes and then you're ready to go, because there is NOTHING ELSE TO DO without getting in a car or on a train and going elsewhere.

I don't get it, did you walk the hiking trails? The faces are just the centerpiece; there's a lot to see.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:34 PM on November 4, 2011


Also, it's the secret headquarters of the Tomorrow Syndicate.
posted by Zed at 5:30 PM on November 4, 2011


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