Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mount Rushmore

Summertime means travel time. I've been lucky when it comes to travel. I've seen many of the world's landmarks up close and personal. Places like the Eiffel Tower, The Acropolis, Vatican City, Ayres Rock, Franz Josep Glacier, Norte Dame and Big Ben. For the next few postings I want to share some lesson plans I use for my students as I present some of America's outstanding landmarks and places of interest. So get your luggage packed and gas-up your mental car because we're off. Let's go to Mount Rushmore National Memorial:

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, near Keystone, South Dakota, is a monumental granite sculpture by Gutzon Borglum, that represents the first 150 years of the history of the United States of America. The 60 ft. (18m) sculptures are designed to look like the heads of former U.S. Presidents George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson, (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865).

The entire memorial covers 1,278.45 acres (5.17 km²) and is 5,725 feet (1,745 m) above sea level. The faces were blasted out of the mountain between 1927 and 1941 by 400 workers under the direction of Borglum, and cost of just under $1 million. The heads are carved to the proportion of men 465' tall. Originally, Borglum planned to carve the bodies from the waist up, but only Washington's lapels were completed. He left no room for more figures to be added later.

Mt. Rushmore, which was originally known to the Lakota Sioux Indian tribe as Six Grandfathers, got its name from a joke. In 1885 a young New York lawyer named George Rushmore was vacationing in what was then Dakota Territory. Pointing to the then-unnamed peak, he asked his guide what it was called. "I call it Mount Rushmore," joked the guide...and the name stuck. Forty years later, when sculptor Gutzon Borglum selected the mountain for his carvings, the astonished George Rushmore contributed $5,000 toward the project.

As Six Grandfathers, the mountain was part of the route that Lakota leader Black Elk took in a spiritual journey that ended at Harney Peak. After military battles with the Indians from 1876 to 1877, the United States took control over the area, a claim that is still disputed based on the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. White American settlers called the peak may names including Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain, and Keystone Cliffs.

Historian Doane Robinson got the idea for a Mount Rushmore concept in 1923 as a way to promote tourism in South Dakota. In 1924, he persuaded Borglum to travel to the Black Hills region to see if the idea could be done. Borglum had worked on the huge bas-relief memorial to Confederate leaders on Stone Mountain in Georgia. He chose Mount Rushmore partly because it faced southeast and enjoyed maximum exposure to the sun. Congress set-up a Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission on March 3, 1925. President Coolidge insisted that along with Washington, two Republicans and one Democrat be portrayed. Today, the monument attracts about two million people annually and is managed by the National Park Service. Find out more about this granite marvel at:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here's one of my stoned face poems:

Sylvia Plath - Awaiting Our Applause

The eggs.

The boiling water.

And an empty salt shaker.

Or it could be a poem filled with streets and
sewers and a thick overcast that burns off at
noon. You know, the kind that seems to hoop
around on that good leg it broke falling from
a branch high up in the tree of life. And it
might wear an exotic apron stolen from the
kitchen of illicit greasy spoons. Or it might
be a pustule camouflaged on a parking meter
only a stanza could come from. One unpolluted
stop sign. A couple of left-winged construction
cranes. A billboard sacred to lip-synch. And if
you happen to take the alternative way to the
dry cleaners you could drive right by a rundown
elementary school with a playground longing for
its muse to repair the lopsided merry-go-round.
You have plenty of time prepare to applause. As
for me, I have a blind date with a wrist slash
who's online profile is innocent and cruel too. It
will be dressed in an orange jumpsuit and will be
carrying a plank card implying that every faith is
created by infidels and that even the path to the
Pearly Gate leads straight to hell.

Poem first published at:


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