Monday, December 24, 2012

Gutzon Borglum and Mount Rushmore

The following pictures are taken from an official visitor's guide:  Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  "The Shrine of Democracy."  Keystone, South Dakota:  Riordan & Riordan, 1982. (The publishers appear to be no longer in business.)

In the early years of the 20th Century, Gutzon Borglum was already an accomplished sculptor.  Among his accomplishments, he wrote a personal report that was highly critical of the Aircraft Board's production problems during World War I,  (Basically, the early aircraft were hand-made, and not amenable to the mass-production techniques that had been developed by the American auto industry.)

The Mount Rushmore project was begun in 1927 by Gutzon Borglum, and completed by his son Lincoln in October 1941, a half year after his father died.

The undertaking was quite remarkable, given the tools and technology available at the time.  To ensure correct scale, a protractor was attached to the top of each head, with a 30-foot arm traversing this arc and extending out over the face, graduated in feet and inches.   A 1/12th scale model of each head had a similar arrangement, so that plumb lines could be dropped from the arm in any place, measurements taken from the model, and then expanded 12 times to indicate the amount of rock to be removed from the mountain face.  Each face had a measurement made every 6 inches, vertically and horizontally, with this information then painted on the spot so that the inexperienced work crews could simply follow this information to remove the correct amount of granite.  Workers were lowered by hand-operated winches on leather chairs like bos'n chairs, with jackhammers and other tools also winched down to them.  The pneumatic drills were powered by compressors at the bottom of the mountain, providing air pressure through a 3-inch pipe.  They went through about 400 drill bits a day, and each dulled bit was taken down to the blacksmith's shop at the base of the mountain to be heated, sharpened, re-heated and tempered.  Borglum was scrupulous about safety, and no workmen were injured or killed on the project, a fantastic accomplishment.

Gutzon had also intended the monument to include a "Hall of Records" about two-thirds of the way up the mountain.  He wanted this to be a repository of human knowledge for the future, to prevent his sculpture from joining in mystery such artifacts as the giant heads on Easter Island.  He described the Hall as follows:

     "Recesses will be cut into these walls to be filled with bronze and glass cabinets, which will hold the records stamped on aluminum sheets, rolled separately and placed in tubes.  Buts of our leaders in all human activities will occupy the recesses between the cabinets.
    The records of electricity, beginning with Franklin, which has given us light, heat, mustic, the radio, the telegraph, the telphone and controls in power the extent of which we can hardly imagine, must be here, together with the records of literature, the records of travel, immigration, religious development and the record of perhaps the largest contribution that we have made to humanity, which has been free controlled peace, a government of the people, by and for the people."

This Hall was never completed.  For more information,  see this article in the National Parks Traveller.

Of greatest relevance to our Progress is Fine blog, Borglum also had the following to say:

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