It’s the third Monday in February, so that means you might be out of school in honor of Washington’s Birthday! If you look at a calendar, read a newspaper or watch television, you may think it’s actually Presidents’ Day…but that’s another Wonder entirely.

In honor of four particular former presidents, we’re going to take a look at one of the most famous presidential memorials in America. And believe us when we say these guys are rock stars!

What are we talking about? Mount Rushmore, of course! Mount Rushmore National Memorial features the faces of four former presidents — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln — carved into Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills region of South Dakota.

Doane Robinson, a historian from South Dakota, came up with the idea of carving the faces of famous people into mountains in the Black Hills as a way to encourage tourists to visit South Dakota. He enlisted Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum to help him find the perfect spot.

Borglum and Robinson eventually settled on Mount Rushmore for several reasons. It’s the tallest mountain in the area at 5,725 feet above sea level. It also faces southeast, which meant that the work would receive sunlight for most of the day.

Mount Rushmore is also made up of smooth granite. This durable rock is especially good for sculpting, because it erodes at a rate of only one inch every 10,000 years.

Rather than simply carving “famous people” into Mount Rushmore, Borglum thought the sculpture should have a patriotic, national focus. His idea was to carve the likenesses of four presidents who best represented the first 150 years of United States history.

Borglum chose George Washington because, as the first president, he represents the birth of America. Jefferson, who was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase, promoted the expansion of the nation. Lincoln, through his guidance through the Civil War, symbolizes the preservation of the country. Roosevelt, who encouraged construction of the Panama Canal, embodies the development of America.

The sculpting of Mount Rushmore began in 1927. With the help of over 400 workers, Borglum completed the 60-foot sculptures of the presidents’ faces between 1934 and 1939.

Originally, construction plans called for each president to be sculpted from head to waist. When Borglum died in March 1941, his son, Lincoln, took over. Unfortunately, funding for the project ran out and construction ended in October 1941.

The entire project cost just under $1 million. Despite the size of the project and the dangers inherent in sculpting the side of a granite mountain, there were no fatal accidents during the project. Today, regular maintenance of the memorial requires mountain climbers to check for and seal cracks regularly.

Robinson’s initial idea of attracting tourists has certainly come to pass. Mount Rushmore draws over two million visitors each year.


30 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (18 votes, avg. 3.78 out of 5)
  1. No! I was wrong again. Today’s wonder of the day is not about brains. However, I loved today’s wonder!

    Fast Fact: I think why you put this wonder of the day Who’s on Mount Rushmore because today is President’s Day.

    Happy presidents day!

    I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is that what shoes keep your feet warm even on a cold day. Still I am not positive, though.

    • That’s OK, TJ! You don’t always have to be correct about the next Wonder of the Day®…we think half the fun is the GUESSING part! You are an AWESOME Wonder Friend for visiting Wonderopolis and leaving us such SUPER comments! You’re RIGHT, too! We DID think today’s Wonder would be a GREAT one for President’s Day! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

  2. Our class tried to identify the faces in the photo before we read the article. Most of us knew George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

    Four people predicted Roosevelt correctly and five knew Thomas Jefferson.

    Looking forward to the next Wonder!

    • We think it’s really cool that you guys tried to identify the presidents on Mount Rushmore before you explored today’s Wonder together, New Century School 2/3 Class! Thank you for stopping by Wonderopolis and leaving us this WONDERful comment! :-)

  3. Here’s what we think tomorrow’s Wonder may be about:

    –the first pair of slippers,
    –How does snow form?
    –an electric boot warmer,
    –electric blanket.

    • Those are all AWESOME predictions about tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®, New Century School–Verona, WI! We’ll all have to check back tomorrow to see if you were correct! We appreciate you WONDERing together and letting us know you were here! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT question, Kaitlyn! More than two million people visit Mount Rushmore each year. That’s a LOT of Wonder Friends, isn’t it? :-)

  4. HI WONDEROPOLIS! It is me, smile22 from yesterday! I never knew that Mount Rushmore was real. Where is Mount Rushmore located? Let me know. HAVE A GREAT PRESIDENT’S DAY!

    • Thanks for wishing us a happy President’s Day, Smile22! It’s been a WONDERful day of learning today! Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota! We hope to be able to visit there one day soon, how about you? :-)

  5. Who’s on Mount Rushmore? Mt. Rushmore is made of rock. They are the presidents. Abraham Lincoln is my favorite. I like his black hat.

    • Hello, Jeron! Thank you for visiting this Wonder of the Day®! You’re right! Abraham Lincoln is one of the presidents on Mount Rushmore. The other three are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt! We think it’s GREAT that you like Mr. Lincoln’s hat! :-)

    • WOW! We think it would be so AMAZING to visit Mount Rushmore, Marion! You are super lucky! Thanks for sharing your personal connection to today’s Wonder! :-)

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool wonder! There are 4 presidents on Mount Rushmore and they are; George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about bugs.
    Paige 😉

    • You’re RIGHT, Paige! Those ARE the four presidents featured on Mount Rushmore. Thank you for visiting Wonderopolis and leaving us another AMAZING comment! :-)

  7. Hi there Wondercrew! We have a question for you…Why didn’t they try to fundraise more money so that they could also sculpt the presidents bodies as well?
    Thanks :)

  8. I want to see Mount Rushmore in person instead of a picture of it. In first or second grade, we read about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I want to go to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore for vacation this year.

    • That’s a WONDERful idea for a vacation, Natasha! Please stop by Wonderopolis again if you get to visit Mount Rushmore this summer…we’d love to hear about your experience! :-)

    • What a SUPER nice comment, Rocky! Thanks for being such a GREAT Wonder Friend and letting us know how much you love learning in Wonderopolis! :-)

  9. I have been to Mount Rushmore, it was awesome. Thanks for the wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • You’re certainly welcome, J-Roc! Thank YOU for sharing your personal connection to Mount Rushmore! We think it’s so GREAT that you’ve been there to visit! :-)

    • You’re RIGHT, Lucy! We’re super glad you visited Wonderopolis today and left us a comment to let us know you were here! We hope you had as much fun learning about Mount Rushmore as we did! :-)

    • We think traveling to South Dakota to see the four famous faces sounds like a WONDERful trip, Gabor! Thank you for sharing your excitement for Mt. Rushmore with us–we hope you visit soon and tell us how the carvings looked in person! Have a SUPER day! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who’s on Mount Rushmore?
  • Which artists sculpted Mount Rushmore?
  • How long did it take to sculpt Mount Rushmore?

Wonder Gallery

mount rushmore_shutterstock_87451688Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to dive in and learn more about the creation of Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota? Go online to check out the National Park Service’s Mount Rushmore Student Guide.

In its pages, you’ll be able to read about the methods the crafters used to create the presidents’ faces out of granite. You’ll also learn more about the plants and animals that call Mount Rushmore home.

Once you feel like you know Mount Rushmore inside and out, put your knowledge to the test. Go online to challenge yourself to complete the Mount Rushmore online puzzle (scroll down until you see the puzzle and then click “Start Puzzle”). Can you put all the pieces together to see the presidents’ faces again?


Still Wondering

Visit Smithsonian’s History Explorer to check out the General George Washington, Military Leader lesson. Children will use artifacts and a historical letter to discuss George Washington’s leadership during the War of Independence and the qualities of great leaders.


Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day will keep your toes toasty warm even on the coldest day!

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