Mount Rushmore FAQs

Ask your questions about Mount Rushmore!

By Jean L.S. Patrick, Author

Who Carved the Mountain? The Story of Mount Rushmore
Face to Face with Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore Memories

People ask me all sorts of questions about Mount Rushmore, so I've decided to keep a running list of Q&A's.  Scroll down to see a ton of questions, answers, and photographs.

If you have a question, please contact me, and I'll do my best to answer you with an email.  I'll also post the answer below. 

Q:  Is there any gold behind Mount Rushmore?  R.D.

A:  In the National Treasure movie, Mount Rushmore is full of golden treasures.  As far as we know, this is not true.   However, gold was found in the Black Hills in the 1870s.


Q:  Which president was carved first?

A:  George Washington.


Q:  Who was in charge of carving Mount Rushmore?

A:  Gutzon Borglum.


Q:  How long did it take to make it perfect?

A:  Gutzon Borglum did everything he could to make the faces perfect.  He looked at them from the base of the mountain and from every angle.  He also looked at the faces at different times of the day, examining the light and the shadows.  When a change needed to be made, he showed the workers exactly what to do.

Borglum began with George Washington's face and continued to perfect it throughout the years of carving. 


Q:  How many days did it take to carve Mount Rushmore?

A:  The drilling began on October 4, 1927.  The carving ended on October 31, 1941.  That's 14 years and 28 days.  However, the workers didn't work every single day. Usually they didn't work during the winter.


Q:  How come Abraham Lincoln is so far away from the other three presidents?  L.R.  

A:  At first, Gutzon Borglum planned to carve the faces in the following order:  Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln.  (George Washington would be in the middle.)  But when the workers were halfway through carving Thomas Jefferson, they realized that the rock was weak.

So, Borglum and the workers blasted Jefferson off the mountain and began to carve him on the other side of Washington.  Because of this, Borglum had to figure out a new place to put Lincoln.  He decided to carve Lincoln on the end where the rock would be stable.


Q:  How many people died while carving Mount Rushmore?

A:  No one died during the blasting and carving process.  However, some of the workers died later of silicosis (a lung condition).  This was caused by the dust that the they inhaled while they were carving the granite.


Q:  How long did it take to carve Mount Rushmore?  B.H.

A:  It took about 14 years to carve Mount Rushmore.  The carving began in 1927 and stopped in 1941.


Q:  How many children did Guzton Borglum have?

A:  He and his wife had two children:  Lincoln and Mary Ellis.


Q:  Where did Gutzon Borglum live?

A:  Gutzon Borglum and his family lived on a ranch near Hermosa, South Dakota.


Q:  Why do the presidents' eyes look so real?  A.K.

A:  The pupil of each eye is a 20-inch shaft of granite.  When the sunlight shines on the flat end of the shaft, the eye appears to twinkle.


Q:  Why do the Presidents' eyes look like they're staring at you?  P.J.

A:  Gutzon Borglum was a genius.  His artistic talent and hard work allowed him to achieve this effect.


Q:  Which presidents from Mount Rushmore are on United States coins?

A:  George Washington (quarter); Thomas Jefferson (nickel); and Abraham Lincoln (penny).

Q:  Which president from Mount Rushmore is not on a United States coin?

A:  Theodore Roosevelt.


Q:  How much dynamite did they use?  M.P.
Q:  How much dynamite was used for blasting?  K.E.

A:  The workers used 6,000 pounds of dynamite to carve George Washington.  (Just imagine how much dynamite it took to carve all four faces!)

Q:  How many people died while working on Mount Rushmore?

A:  No one died while working on the mountain.  However, at least one worker died later of silicosis (a lung problem caused by inhaling the rock dust).


Q:  Are the noses hollow?

A:  No.  The nostrils are only slight indentations.  However, the shadows make them look hollow.

  Abe Lincoln's nostril.


Q:  Why are their noses so big?  L.H

A:  Gutzon Borglum had to make the noses fit the huge size of the faces.  Each nose is about 20 feet long.  For more information about the noses, click here.


Q:  Are there wild animals near Mount Rushmore?  H.M.

A:  Many wild animals live near Mount Rushmore, including mountain goats. 
Just south of Mount Rushmore (in Custer State Park) you can see bison, deer, elk, prairie dogs, and burros.  Mountain lions are also found in the Black Hills, but they are rarely seen. 

*** If you like animals, you'll be interested in my next book, scheduled to be published in 2014!  Keep visiting my website for information.


Q: Why did they want to create the faces on Mount Rushmore?  Were they just being creative?  V.B.

A:  Gutzon Borglum thought that Mount Rushmore would be the best place to carve the faces.  The cliff was high above the land.  Also, it faced the southeast.  This would allow the faces to be in the sunlight.

 Even though he thought it was a great place to create art (i.e. be creative), not everyone agreed with him.  Many of the Lakota people believed that the Black Hills were sacred.  Also, many of the people believed the carving would ruin the natural beauty of the Black Hills.


Q:  Can a person go inside Mount Rushmore?  L.L.

A:  No.  The mountain is made of granite.  Some people think that you can go inside of the nostrils and peek out the eyes.  This would be a lot of fun.  However, there are no openings into the figures on Mount Rushmore.


Q:  Why was South Dakota chosen to be the place to carve Mount Rushmore?  S.M.

A:  This is an interesting question.  South Dakota wasn't chosen for the location.  Rather, South Dakota was where the idea developed.
The person who had the first idea for the carving (Doane Robinson) lived in Pierre, South Dakota.  He wanted to carve the "Needles" in the Black Hills.  When Gutzon Borglum came to South Dakota to do the carving, he saw Mount Rushmore and believed that it would be a great place to carve the presidents.


Q:  What was the inspiration of Mount Rushmore?  P.J.

A:  There are two answers to this question.

Tourism:  Originally, Doane Robinson wanted to carve western heroes on the tall rocks called the Needles.  He believed that this would bring tourists to South Dakota.  But sculptor Gutzon Borglum had other plans.  He believed that the faces of the presidents would be more likely to attract visitors.

Patriotism:  Borglum loved the United States of America.  He believed that the four presidents would be a long-lasting symbol of the United States, its history, and its ideals of freedom and democracy.


Q:  Why did he pick these presidents? 
Q:  Why did they choose the four particular presidents that were
carved?  C.M.

A:  He believed that these presidents represented the history of the United States.  George Washington represented the birth of the United States. Thomas Jefferson represented the growth of the United States.  Abraham Lincoln represented the preservation of the United States, despite the horror of the Civil War.  Theodore Roosevelt represented the development of the nation.


Q:  How many people were involved in carving Mount Rushmore?  T.A.

A:  Approximately 400 men and women used their abilities to create the carving on Mount Rushmore. Some worked only a few days.  Others worked for years.  


Q:  Did anyone ever get fired?

A:  Yes!  Gutzon Borglum often fired and rehired his workers.  One worker was fired for yodeling.


Q:  What are the names of the people who built Mount Rushmore?  J.B.

A:   There were over 400 men and women who worked together to create the faces on Mount Rushmore.   I don't know all of their names.  However, Jack Payne was the name of the worker who was fired for yodeling.


Q:  Did they ever mess up and start over?  M.G.

A:  Yes.  In fact, part of Thomas Jefferson was originally carved on the OTHER side of George Washington.  When the workers realized that the rock was not strong, Gutzon Borglum asked them to blast Jefferson's head off the mountain.  After that, they began to carve Jefferson in the place where he is now.


Q:  Why is Washington first?  T.K.

A:  Gutzon Borglum started with Washington because he wanted him to be the main figure.  He carved Washington on the highest part of the mountain.


Q:  Do any of the heads have initials on them?  E.H.

A:  This is a very interesting question.  I don't know if the workers carved their initials on the heads.  If you were a worker, would you have carved your initials?  What do you think Gutzon Borglum would have done if he found out?


Q:  Why did they decide to carve only four faces?  M.N.

A:  There was not enough carvable rock to add more faces. 

Some people did want a fifth face to be carved....  In 1935, many people thought that the face of Susan B. Anthony should be added to Mount Rushmore.  Gutzon Borglum explained that there was not enough rock remained that was strong enough to be carved.


Q:  How tall are the faces?

A:  60 feet tall.


Q:  How tall is Mount Rushmore? T.A.

A:  5,725 feet above sea level.


Q:  Why did Gutzon Borglum carve Mount Rushmore?

A:  He wanted the presidents' faces to represent the history and the ideals of the United States.


Q:  What was the purpose of writing the Mount Rushmore book?  A.K.

A:  The idea for the book came from the Mount Rushmore History Association.  They asked me to write a picture book about how and why Mount Rushmore was carved. 

I didn't think it would take much time to write  Who Carved the Mountain? The Story of Mount Rushmore.  However, it took almost 18 months to research, write, and revise

When this book was done, they asked me to write a book that would help young people think about Mount Rushmore and its meaning.  This book is called Face to Face with Mount Rushmore. 


Q:  How did you see with your glasses off?

A:  Are you looking at my photograph on the inside of the book jacket of Who Carved the Mountain?  This is one of my favorite pictures.  Even though my glasses are off, I can still see quite well.  (My glasses help me to see things that are up close.)  Click here to see the photo again.


Q:  Is this story real?

A:  Yes, this story about the carving of Mount Rushmore is true.  I love to write nonfiction (true stories) about things that are unusual and exciting.  These were the kind of books I liked to read when I was a kid.  I think that's why I like to write them now.


Do you have a question?  Ask it in an email.
Check back later to see if I've added it to the list.



Face to Face with Mount Rushmore

Who Carved the Mountain? The Story of Mount Rushmore

Rushmore Noses


School Visits and Presentations

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