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Who are the Presidents on Mount Rushmore?

Mount Rushmore Presidents
Mount Rushmore shows sculptures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt.

Mount Rushmore is a monument to commemorate a list of 4 United States Presidents for their achievements.

Who are the 4 presidents on Mount Rushmore?

  • George Washington
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Read on to find out why these 4 presidents were chosen and what the secret room at Mount Rushmore contains.

When was Mount Rushmore Built?

Work began on the massive rock sculpture in 1927 and finished in 1941, built under the direction of Gutzon Borglum.

Mount Rushmore is one of the most iconic structures in the United States, showcasing four of the most important presidents in American history.

Originally designed as a tourist attraction, Borglum intended Mount Rushmore to commemorate 150 years of American existence as a free country.

Who built Mount Rushmore?

Mount Rushmore was built over a 14-year period from 1927 to 1941 by a team of sculptors.

The building was led by Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum. Borglum was a Danish-American sculptor who is also known for his work on the Statue of Liberty.

Where is Mount Rushmore?

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located in the Black Hills in the southwestern part of the state of South Dakota.

As well as the sculpture itself, there is also a museum and several exhibits explaining the process of creating the memorial as well as why the 4 presidents were chosen to be on Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore Presidents

The four presidents on Mount Rushmore were chosen for their contributions to the founding, growth, preservation, and development of the country.

Borglum viewed George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt as representing the most important eras and moments in the nation’s history.

George Washington – Founding

George Washington was put on Mount Rushmore as he was the most important Founding Father in American history, playing a huge role in the nation’s creation. Serving as the first president in American history, Washington also served as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and president of the Constitutional Convention.

When building Mount Rushmore, Borglum recognized that without Washington’s leadership during the early days of the republic, the United States most likely would not have survived.

One of Washington’s most important actions in the early days of the country was his decision to walk away from politics after serving his second presidential term. Because of his popularity and prestige, Washington could have probably served as president his entire lifetime and essentially functioned as a king.

Mount Rushmore pays tribute to Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Jefferson

However, he put his personal ambitions aside in preference for the best interests of the country, helping to ensure its success into the future.

Thomas Jefferson – Growing

Thomas Jefferson was another important Founding Father, performing many important functions in the early republic including authoring the Declaration of Independence. He was a key member of the original Continental Congress and served as the governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781. Before being elected the 3rd president of the United States, Jefferson served as secretary of state under George Washington and vice president under John Adams.

Despite his impressive resume in the early days of the country’s founding, Borglum honored Jefferson on Mount Rushmore primarily for the role he played later in his career in expanding the country.

During his presidency, Jefferson was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase, an incredibly successful treaty whereby Jefferson purchased over 800,000 square miles of territory from France. The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States, helping it to transition from a young republic to a growing power.

The 4 presidents on Mount Rushmore were chosen for 4 different reasons.

Abraham Lincoln – Preserving

Abraham Lincoln took office as the 16th president of the United States during the most difficult time in the country’s history. Less than 100 years after its formation, the United States was dissolving into chaos with the secession of eleven southern states due to differences in beliefs over slavery.

Lincoln was faced with the nearly impossible task of conducting a war against seceded states while simultaneously dealing with severe internal divisions within the remaining northern states.

Although Lincoln made some early mistakes in how he conducted the war, specifically in how he handled General George McClellan, he was adept at learning from them. He knew how to brilliantly manage strong personalities within his administration that were sometimes at odds with his own goals.

Borglum recognized that Lincoln’s masterful leadership during the Civil War not only preserved the country and won the Civil War, but also ended slavery. This is why he was chosen to be a President on Mount Rushmore.

Theodore Roosevelt – Development

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, was instrumental in developing the United States into a world power. After taking office upon the assassination of President William McKinley, Roosevelt led an active administration focused on economic reform, conservation, and a strong foreign policy.

He also expanded the US Navy and began construction of the Panama Canal, one of the most important building projects of the 20th Century.

It is interesting that each of the presidents on Mount Rushmore came from different periods of time.

Roosevelt was a personal favorite of Borglum, and why he was chosen to be on Mount Rushmore. Borglum admired Roosevelt’s contributions to the National Parks Service, business, and the construction of the Panama Canal. Roosevelt remains the youngest person to ever become president, taking office at the age of 42 upon the death of McKinley.

His leadership helped transform the United States into a world power that would play a huge role in several important world events and conflicts in the 20th Century.

What is in the Mount Rushmore Secret Room?

While originally building Mount Rushmore, they started building a huge chamber within the mountain. Due to a lack of funds, war, and the death of Borglum, the secret chamber was never finished.

However, in 1998, they started work again on the secret room. Inside they put 16 exhibits that showed photos of the carving of Mount Rushmore and also explained why the 4 presidents were chosen.

They also had a biography of Borglum, US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence kept inside a large wooden box that was then put inside a titanium box.

The titanium box was then sealed and covered by a huge slab of granite so that it could be kept as a time capsule. 

Watch the following video to find out why the Mount Rushmore Presidents were chosen:

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