Mount Rushmore is an iconic national monument, completed 75 years ago this month. Originally conceived in 1923 as a tourist attraction, the initial plans included sculptures of Native Americans. But over time it turned instead into a memorial to prominent presidents carved into the granite of South Dakota’s Black Hills. The 60-foot tall faces of 4 US presidents are scaled to men who would be 465 feet tall. Construction began in 1927, taking 14 years, 400 workers, and nearly a million dollars to complete. It achieved its original goal, with almost 3 million visitors every year.
Though known as a shrine to democracy, it has a controversial past. The mountain was sacred to the Lakota Sioux, and had been part of land given by a treaty in 1868 to them forever, but the land was seized after a war in 1876. Partly because of this, Native Americans occupied the monument in 1971 and named it Mount Crazy Horse. Although they didn’t succeed in taking it over, the Crazy Horse Memorial has been in progress in another part of the Black Hills since 1948. When completed it will be the largest sculpture in the world. Though less popular than Rushmore, this monument receives over a million visitors a year and was quite busy the day I visited. Although it celebrates Native American culture, it has its own controversies, as many Lakota are unhappy about carving a mountain they feel should have remained a wild landscape.
I took various photos of the iconic Rushmore classic quartet, but I liked this photo of Washington’s profile best, taken from a lesser-known location. From this perspective he seems to be looking out from ancient rock into a promising sunny future of clear blue skies, hopefully pondering a world where all Americans are truly equal.