Tourists flock to South Dakota’s massive presidential portraits. How they got there is a complex tale of land grabs, egos, and foiled movie scenes.
Built on sacred Native American land and sculpted by a man with ties to the Ku Klux Klan, Mount Rushmore National Memorial was fraught with controversy even before it was completed 79 years ago on October 31, 1941.
Mount Rushmore pays patriotic tribute to four United States presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln—with 60-foot-tall faces carved into a mountainside in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Over the years, the monument has drawn protests over its location on indigenous land, debates about whether another commander-in-chief deserves a spot on the mountain, and a Hollywood controversy over an Alfred Hitchcock movie partially filmed on the site.
To understand how Mount Rushmore has become a cultural symbol and flash point, here’s a look at how the memorial came to be.