As a true-bred Dane and a descendant of Vikings I like to think of our small populace getting out and having a hand in the world. So, it always brings a tender strum to my heart-strings when I come across an example of Scandinavian touch on a larger scale. Mount Rushmore, surprising at it may seem, is one of those touches and just goes to show that us Danes have talents beyond good looks, sumptuous bacon and delectable butter (albeit all great achievements in themselves).
It all started in 1923 as the brainchild of historian Doane Robinson, in order to bring “something of special interest” and promote tourism in the Black Hills. Doane contracted the charismatic, flamboyant and often controversial Gutzon Borglum, a 57-year old sculptor and descendant of Danish immigrants. After a few false starts Borglum agreed to the idea and from 1927 to 1941 Borglum and his son labored to create the mammoth 60-foot (18-metre) granite heads of US presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln at Mount Rushmore. It was a tremendous undertaking requiring new innovations in both rock-carving techniques, dynamiting and the manpower of 400 men. It was also not without setbacks including funding issues, rock problems (Jefferson’s original position had to be blasted and changed after 2 years of work discovered an unsurpassable crack) and not least Borglum’s unique and stubborn personality. However the work persisted, no men died on the project (a particular distinction) and the final carving became a monument and testament to first 150 years of the history of United States of America.
If you’re in the area, it’s well worth the visit and the park houses a fine museum with a history of the project and the four Presidents. So, although I can’t quite claim ownership, I must say I do feel a bit of pride knowing our descendants had a hand in the thing….and that’s speaking as a Dane, a traveller, a sometimes artist and a good bit of American thrown in for the mix.