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From Barnes & NobleBarnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
If ever there was a book that could make one long to visit an American landmark, this is it. John Taliaferro's insightful account of the sculpting of Mount Rushmore is both a telling piece of art history and an enthralling analysis of the cultural, technological, and political forces that helped shape this singular monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
The story begins in the mid-19th century, when the promise of gold sent prospectors rushing to the Great Plains, fueling bloody battles between U.S. Army and the Sioux. The irony that this American shrine was built on land wrested from Native Americans (in violation of government treaties) is not lost on Taliaferro. But when the end of World War I brought an economic slump to the region, politicians began wondering if they could boost the flagging economy through tourism. And the budding interstate highway system convinced them that with the right attraction, they could appeal to vacationers traveling by car.
Gutzon Borglum, a talented but temperamental sculptor, was chosen to carve Mount Rushmore. Taliaferro tells how Borglum began the project in 1927, and his description of the efforts required to create the images of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt into the face of the mountain is breathtaking. The monument was still under construction at the time of Borglum's death in 1941. Today, Mount Rushmore is considered alternately a symbol of democracy, a desecration of nature, and a tourist trap. But as Taliaferro aptly reveals in this captivating history, it is truly "a mirror of our culture" worth further examination. (Winter 2002 Selection)