The Carving of Mount Rushmore by Rex Alan Smith

Updated on August 24, 2019
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Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore | Source

The Carving of Mount Rushmore - Its Sculptor and History

The Carving of Mount Rushmore, by Rex Alan Smith, is so rich in details about the events surrounding the carving, that is difficult to categorize the genre of the book. Amazon lists it as a “Travel Book” “Art History” and "Sculpture Appreciation". I would add to that a biography of the sculptor John Gutzon Borglum.

Once we get into the nature of the sculptor himself there are parts of this that are comedic in his over the top behavior. It’s funny to a point, but then his actions become cringe worthy. If you have ever been with someone who acted out or made a spectacle of themselves and you felt embarrassed for them, this is the feeling you will get when you read of Borglum’s behavior. There are a lot of "is he for real?" moments.

To put this in perspective Gutzon Borglum, as he liked to be called, was initially hired to carve Stone Mountain Georgia. His personality clashes were such that he was fired an at one point the Stone Mountain Memorial Association had a warrant issued for his arrest. Despite this, he was hired to carve Mount Rushmore. He was able to salvage and utilize a lot of the techniques he had intended to use on Stone Mountain on Mount Rushmore.

None of this diminishes his achievements, talent or genius. For anyone who can appreciate the engineering required to carve this monument, there are plenty of original techniques and even machines invented in order to carry out the task. Keeping in mind, at the start of the project the roads to the mountain were rudimentary and there was no electricity. There is admiration a plenty for good old Yankee ingenuity. The workers worked under treacherous conditions in general and in regard to the fluctuating temperatures outdoors while suspended from a mountain.

Something for Everyone - A Great Source of Information

If you are a person interested in politics, there is plenty of that too. The maneuvering and manipulation to gain initial and continued funding for the project is a lesson in conniving, dealing and persuasion on an ongoing basis. Keeping in mind that the carving spans the years 1927 to 1941, there are multiple players and Presidents involved and of various minds. The initiation of the project and carving takes place under the presidencies of Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The history of Mount Rushmore coincides with other historical events in the United States and helps put into perspective the general political atmosphere and attitudes of the population due to events going on at the same time as the carving.


Rex Alan Smith is a Wonderful Story Teller

I have not been able to find much autobiographical information about the author, Rex Alan Smith. I have read one of his other books, Moon of the Popping Trees which was equally as informative and entertaining. That book was also about the Black Hills of South Dakota.

In The Carving of Mount Rushmore he tells the story in great detail with facts and dates. Although the book is loaded with detail, it is never tedious. It is easy to read and will hold your attention much like any other drama that is unfolding. Even though we know Mount Rushmore has been carved, there is a certain amount of suspense as to whether it will ever happen. The back and forth of the lack of funding and the politics for and against never end. Maybe we should add “drama” to the list of genres to possibly called this book.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Ellen Gregory

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      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        2 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Having viewed Mount Rushmore in person many decades ago, it would be fun to know more about who was responsible for carving it. Thanks for writing about this book.

      • LiteraryMind profile imageAUTHOR

        Ellen Gregory 

        2 weeks ago from Connecticut, USA

        The sculptor was a character, that's for sure!

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

        This must be truly an interesting read. When we look at monuments today, we often do not realize what people have to go through to make those.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        3 weeks ago from UK

        This is a good review of what sounds like a very interesting book. Often the story behind iconic manmade land marks can be as interesting as the landmark itself.

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