A Lasting Legacy
There are many places, people, and organizations that have had a great impact on America. Some are monuments; one in particular stands as an ideological symbol of our nation. Some are former presidents; one who was a prior military leader who went on to lead our country. Some are simply known for a strong devotion to serving the American people. Mount Rushmore has become one of the most recognized tourist attractions in the country. President Eisenhower will always be known for his achievements while in office. The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to provide for those who have served our country. These are three such examples, all of which have, and continue to, leave a legacy that will not soon be forgotten by the American people.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Mount Rushmore began as a nameless, faceless rock jutting out of the Black Hills in southwestern South Dakota. In 1885, an American businessman and lawyer named Charles Rushmore was visiting that area for business regarding local tin mines which he owned. He and his guide, William Challis, were in the Black Hills, and Rushmore asked Challis what the rocky cliff was named. Challis replied that it didn’t have a name, but “we’ll call her Rushmore” although the site’s new name wasn’t recognized by the United States Board of Geographic Names until 1930. What would eventually become of that cliff face represents the achievements of America: founding, expansion, preservation, and conservation, each attributed to the legacy of one of the Presidents the monument boasts. (Curlee, p 8)
No such monument would exist, however, until the 1920s, when the state historian of South Dakota, Jonah “Doane” Robinson, first suggested that figures be carved into a different set of rocks in the Black Hills, which are granite spires named “the Needles.” Robinson’s proposal was that figures from the Old West be carved into the Needles as a tribute to the frontier heritage of South Dakota, and that such large statues would serve as a tourist attraction to the state, which was a very remote place for most Americans in the 1920s. He presented his idea to local businessmen, politicians, and sculptors. A senator from South Dakota, Peter Norbeck, helped support the proposal. He was the former governor, the state’s most powerful politician, and a strong advocate for natural forest and wildlife conservation. Senator Norbeck “was a leader in the national movement to preserve areas of great natural beauty and to make them accessible to the public,” and his political backing of the project was crucial. (Curlee, p 10)
Robinson and Senator Norwood agreed that the artist who took on the project needed to be extraordinary. They discovered a man named John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, who was a professional sculptor considered to be very talented with limitless ambition. Possessing a charming personality and a huge ego, Borglum was known for impressive, large-scale designs. Doane Robinson sent a letter describing his vision to Borglum, calling it an opportunity “for heroic sculpture of unusual character.” (Curlee, p 11)
At the time, in 1924, Borglum was already working on a massive relief sculpture of Confederate figures Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Thomas Jackson into the side of Stone Mountain near Atlanta, GA. The project failed, though, because of Borglum’s ego and controlling demeanor. He refused to accept any artistic interference from the project’s owners, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and their ensuing disagreements caused Borglum to destroy his working models and abandon his sculpture at Stone Mountain. “Accused of ‘offensive egotism and delusions of grandeur,’ Borglum retorted: ‘I destroyed the models for the greatest piece of sculpture in the world’s history because I believe in the right of the artists to his own creation. I am ready to rot…