Mount Rushmore National Memorial History

by Katlyn Richter on July 15, 2011 · 6 comments

The summer months are a very popular time to visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The men in granite welcome thousands of visitors every day. The Memorial has received national attention lately by places like Yahoo! Travel, citing it as one of America’s Most Beautiful Landmarks. And despite the lack of fireworks because of a fire hazard, Today Travel had Mount Rushmore listed at one of the “Top 10 Places to Celebrate the Fourth of July.”

There are two additional faces that you might not know about that have helped shape Mount Rushmore into the place it is today. Learn more about Nick Clifford and Ben Black Elk in this post. The information was shared with us by the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society.

Nick Clifford
About 400 people worked to carve Mount Rushmore from 1927 to 1941. The workers included pointers who transferred the measurements on the models to the mountain, drillers, powder men who handled the dynamite, stone carvers who put the finishing touches on the faces, blacksmiths and winch men who raised the men up and down on the bosun seats, among others.

Nick Clifford was one of those workers. As a young 17 year-old, he was hired by Lincoln Borglum who was looking for some good baseball players. The Mount Rushmore Team, as they were called, went on to the state tournament two years in a row. At the mountain, Nick held various jobs from helping build the Sculptor’s Studio (which is still standing today) to winch man and driller.

He is still a fixture at Mount Rushmore. Today, Nick signs his book, Mount Rushmore Q&A, and spends many hours talking with visitors during the summer season about his experiences while carving a mountain.

Ben Black Elk
Born in 1899, Benjamin Black Elk was an Oglala Lakota who understood the importance of passing on the traditions and culture of the Lakota people to future generations. He was involved in American Indian pageants and demonstrations in the Black Hills during the 1930s and 1940s.

Through this, he realized how important heritage tourism was. Around 1948, he volunteered at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, greeting visitors and serving as an Oglala Lakota ambassador to national and international guests. Over the next two decades, he was able to advance the traditions of his culture by visiting with hundreds of families

This is the fourth part in a series of Mount Rushmore history posts. The first post and second post and third post can be found by following the links. The Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society allowed us to share these great pieces of history about Mount Rushmore National Memorial, visit their website for more information. They can also be found on facebook by searching for “Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society.” Information from the National Park Service was also used for this post.
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