Gutzon Borglum had this dream. He wanted to memorialize four great Americans on the side of a mountain by carving their faces out of stone.
He began blasting away on a South Dakota mountainside. After many decades of toil, the task was completed and Mount Rushmore stands as the largest sculpture in the world of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
And it is the subject of an American Experience segment to be broadcast tonight on KACV-TV starting at 8. “Mount Rushmore: American Experience” will tell the story of Borglum’s grand dream, which he didn’t live to see it completed.
There perhaps can no more uniquely American piece of art than Mount Rushmore. Its grand size tells much about its scope. By 1927, when Borglum began carving the faces out of the mountain, there only had been 30 presidents sworn into office. He had room on the side of mountain for four men. For my money, he chose well, although the faces of a couple of other Founding Fathers also could have been considered for being carved into the stone; I’m thinking of, arguably, John Adams and James Madison — the second and fourth presidents, respectively.
But the men he selected all made dramatic and indelible contributions to the history of this great land.
American Experience will document the struggles Borglum had in getting his project started and seeing it through for as long as he could. Death would overtake him in 1941 and his son would complete the job.
But I’ll tell you this: When you stand at the foot of the mountain and see the astonishing detail — such as TR’s eyeglasses — you have to wonder … how in the world did he do that?
Tune in tonight and find out.