Skip to main content

Mount Rushmore Models - 1927-1941

Email share
Original plan of Mount Rushmore
Courtesy: National Park Service

Danish-born sculptor Gutzon Borglum's original vision of the monumental Mount Rushmore figures was very different from the carving as it stands today.

Image - Mount-Rushmore-Gutzon-Borglum-carving-1.jpeg
Image - UnrwdAndUnrwd-Corbis.jpg

One Borglum design envisioned the presidential figures as individual statues. Later designs included clothing detail, limbs and hands.

Image - BorglumNPS.jpg

A working model in the artist's studio at the base of the mountain was a 1/12th-scale rendering of the sculpture as it was supposed to have looked as a finished artwork.

Image - nps04.jpg

Although a number of events and issues influenced and altered Borglum's original vision, the main determiner of what would finally be cut into the granite was the mountain itself. Cracks and other "flaws" in the rock forced certain decisions about what could be done and what could not be.

Image - Gutzon_Borglum's_model_of_Mt._Rushmore_memorial.jpg

This video clip features film and photos shot during the 14-year extent of the carving work on Mount Rushmore. The film describes the process of accurately carving a scaled-up shape of Borglum's model into the mountain. 

The clip is an excerpt from the Historical Footprints documentary "The Men Who Made Rushmore (Clip)."


Gutzon Borglum died in 1941 as America was entering World War Two. Borglum's son Lincoln oversaw the completion of work on the monument that same year.

To learn more about Mount Rushmore and see more video and photos visit PBS and American Experience.