Borglum’s Mount Rushmore

This story starts with a man named Gutzon Borglum. I first really learned about him in probably 2011 or maybe 2010. I really do not have that great a concept of time once it has passed. Anyway, Borglum was the sculptor for “Trail Drivers” which at that time sat in front of the closed Pioneer Hall next to the Witte Museum and later it stood pointing forever north in front of the South Texas Heritage Center. Two cowboys on horses headed north with a herd of longhorn cattle. The cowboy out front is pointing to the horizon and from what I imagine, he is giving orders. The sculpture has amazing movement. You can see that this was a rough and dangerous job just by looking at it. I know it’s easy to see because I used this piece as the starting point for one of my programs at the Witte and the children could see it. They could feel it. We would spend anywhere from 3-5 minutes studying this sculpture and what it told us about history and lives of the cowboys and I would always end with this, “The sculptor’s name was Gutzon Borglum. Does anyone know what other world famous sculpture he created?” I would get the Statue of Liberty every time. So I turned to the adults, “How about you teachers and parents? Can you remember what other huge, mountain size sculpture Borglum created?” Do you know how many times in the four years I used this sculpture as part of my program this question was answered correctly? One.


Borglum lived in San Antonio for a while and not far from Brackenridge park, if I am remembering correctly. He worked on a miniature version of the faces that would be on Mount Rushmore while in San Antonio and those are at the Witte Museum. I remember the first time I saw them and thought how cool it was that he was hatching the plan for one of the nation’s largest monuments here in our hometown of San Antonio. I was so excited to one day see Mount Rushmore. Not because it was a sculpture of our nation’s leaders but because it was created by Gutzon Borglum. Just think about it for a minute, what kind of man says yeah sure I can turn a mountain into a sculpture no big deal. It is an impressive feat.

Borglum did not intend to create Mount Rushmore by using dynamite. He ended up using it of course, daily. But think about looking at a mountain and saying, I’m going to carve four giant faces in that mountain…by hand. Borglum had grit that is for sure. Unfortunately, he would not see the monuments completion, he died in March of 1941 and the project was wrapped up by his son Lincoln by that October. It would fall short of his original vision.

Now, aside from the fact that this monument to the birth, growth, development and preservation of our United States, is in the Black Hills which are sacred to the Lakota, it is a beautiful and patriotic experience. Americans would have to swell with pride after reading about why the faces of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln were chosen. Perhaps our current government officials from both sides of the aisle should attend Mount Rushmore and the museum.

In any case, I would put this experience on your list if you have yet to visit. There is a nice short hike down the hill. Lots of great photo opportunities and a laser light show at night. We still have the chance to use our ticket to get back for the light show, but I am not sure we will see it.

Wyatt really enjoyed it, surprisingly. He was the first one to spot the faces in the mountain from the road. He was very excited. We made a big deal about him being the first person in the family to see Mount Rushmore. He beamed with pride.


Here I am super excited! 


Maybe we should all read this quote once a week. 


Above are fragments from blasting and carving. 


Wyatt loved this part. You picked a picture of the construction and then pulled down the plunger and it would show the actual explosion on the screen. He went back three time! 



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