Why These Four Presidents?

Gutzon Borglum selected these four presidents because from his perspective, they represented the most important events in the history of the United States. Would another artist at that time, or perhaps a modern artist choose differently? As you read more about Borglum's choices, think about what you might have done if the decision was up to you.

 
Closeup view of George Washington's image sculpted onto the gray granite of Mount Rushmore.  He is looking slightly to the left and depicted with a stern expression.

George Washington, First President of the United States

Born 1732, died 1799. Washington led the colonists in the American Revolutionary War to win independence from Great Britain. He was the father of the new country and laid the foundation of American democracy. Because of his importance, Borglum chose Washington to be the most prominent figure on the mountain and represent the birth of the United States.

"The preservation of the sacred fire of Liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people." George Washington

Other places to learn more about George Washington:

George Washington Birthplace National Monument
The White House - Presidents - George Washington

 
Closeup view of Thomas Jefferson's image carved onto the gray granite on Mount Rushmore.  Numerous veins of lighter colored granite and cracks are visible.  He is looking slightly to the right and up and is depicted with a pleasant expression.

Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States

Born 1743, died 1826. Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, a document which inspires democracies around the world. He also purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 which doubled the size of our country, adding all or part of fifteen present-day states. Gutzon Borglum chose Jefferson to represent the growth of the United States.

"We act not for ourselves but for the whole human race. The event of our experiment is to show whether man can be trusted with self - government." Thomas Jefferson

Other places to learn more about Thomas Jefferson:

Thomas Jefferson Memorial National Memorial
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial National Memorial
The White House - Presidents - Thomas Jefferson

 
View of Theodore Roosevelt's image carved onto the gray granite on Mount Rushmore.  He is looking slightly to the right and straight ahead and is depicted with a stern expression.

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States

Born 1858, died 1919. Roosevelt provided leadership when America experienced rapid economic growth as it entered the 20th Century. He was instrumental in negotiating the construction of the Panama Canal, linking the east and the west. He was known as the "trust buster" for his work to end large corporate monopolies and ensure the rights of the common working man. Borglum chose Roosevelt to represent the development of the United States.

"The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight - that he shall not be a mere passenger." Theodore Roosevelt

Other places to learn more about Theodore Roosevelt:

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site
Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site
Sagamore Hill National Historic Site
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The White House - Presidents - Theodore Roosevelt

 
Closeup view of Abraham Lincoln's image carved onto the gray granite on Mount Rushmore.  He is looking to the left with a pleasant or perhaps thoughtful expression.  Lighter colored veins of granite and cracks are visible crossing his forehead and nose.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

Born 1809, died 1865. Lincoln held the nation together during its greatest trial, the Civil War. Lincoln believed his most sacred duty was the preservation of the union. It was his firm conviction that slavery must be abolished. Gutzon Borglum chose Lincoln to represent the preservation of the United States.

"I leave you hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal." Abraham Lincoln

Other places to learn more about Abraham Lincoln:

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
Lincoln Memorial National Memorial
The White House - Presidents - Abraham Lincoln

 

To learn more about these four presidents and all the others follow this link to the White House.

 

Last updated: January 24, 2023

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