The Faces of Mount Rushmore
The four presidents carved on Mount Rushmore National Memorial represent key themes of the nation’s history. Symbolizing freedom, liberty and the power of a dream, they have stood for 75 years high above the Black Hills, inspiring generations of families and visitors from all over the world.
George Washington, 1st President of the United States (1789-1797)
A leader of the American Revolutionary War and elected president in 1789, George Washington took the position reluctantly. Seeing the challenges the new nation faced, the popular military hero feared he wasn’t the right man for the job. Despite being a member of the Federalist Party, Washington was unanimously elected by the 69 electors to lead the new United States of America.
- The face of George Washington was the first to be carved on Mount Rushmore.
- The Washington carving was officially dedicated on July 4, 1930.
- An American flag measuring 39 feet by 67 feet was hand-sewn by a group of Rapid City women and wife of the sculptor, Mrs. Gutzon Borglum, for the dedication. The flag was later used to dedicate all the presidents of Mount Rushmore.
Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States (1801-1809)
Thomas Jefferson, our nation’s third president and one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, is credited with inspiring democracy and the western expansion of the country. In 1803 Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory (which included most of present-day South Dakota) from France for $15 million. The expansion doubled the size of our country, prompting Jefferson to send Lewis and Clark on their famed expedition to explore the new territory. After their return, settlers started moving west into the nation’s new frontier.
- Carving on Mount Rushmore of Thomas Jefferson’s face originally began on the opposite side of George Washington.
- Carvers realized 18 months into the carving that the granite was not suitable. Jefferson’s partially carved face was blasted off with dynamite and carving began anew on the other side of Washington, where we see it now.
- President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the carving of Jefferson on August 30, 1936.
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909)
Theodore Roosevelt was a fiery individualist who embodied American culture of the early 1900s and provided leadership during a time of rapid economic growth. His conservationism, willingness to take on big business and progressive policies set the stage for important reforms of the 20th century, leading many to characterize him as one of the nation’s greatest leaders. Deeply inspired by the Dakota Territory, Roosevelt is also the father of our National Park System, which protects valuable natural resources for generations of Americans to enjoy.
- The face of Roosevelt was the last to be carved on Mount Rushmore.
- The Roosevelt carving was dedicated on July 2, 1939.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States (1861-1865)
Leading the country through some of its darkest years, Abraham Lincoln is considered by many scholars to be our nation’s greatest president. He was instrumental in the abolishment of slavery and is credited with setting in motion the work to preserve the United States after the Civil War. On April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated while attending a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. He died on April 15th.
- The face of Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore was officially dedicated on September 17, 1937.