Great White Fathers: The Story of the Obsessive Quest to Create Mount Rushmore

Great White Fathers: The Story of the Obsessive Quest to Create Mount Rushmore

by John Taliaferro


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Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, hoped that ten thousand years from now, when archaeologists came upon the four sixty-foot presidential heads carved in the Black Hills of South Dakota, they would have a clear and graphic understanding of American civilization.

Borglum, the child of Mormon polygamists, had an almost Ahab-like obsession with Colossalism—a scale that matched his ego and the era. He learned how to be a celebrity from Auguste Rodin; how to be a political bully from Teddy Roosevelt. He ran with the Ku Klux Klan and mingled with the rich and famous from Wall Street to Washington. Mount Rushmore was to be his crowning achievement, the newest wonder of the world, the greatest piece of public art since Phidias carved the Parthenon.

But like so many episodes in the saga of the American West, what began as a personal dream had to be bailed out by the federal government, a compromise that nearly drove Borglum mad. Nor in the end could he control how his masterpiece would be received. Nor its devastating impact on the Lakota Sioux and the remote Black Hills of South Dakota.

Great White Fathers is at once the biography of a man and the biography of a place, told through travelogue, interviews, and investigation of the unusual records that one odd American visionary left behind. It proves that the best American stories are not simple; they are complex and contradictory, at times humorous, at other times tragic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781586482053
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 01/08/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 472
Sales rank: 630,535
Product dimensions: 1.06(w) x 5.50(h) x 8.50(d)

About the Author

John Taliaferro is a former senior editor at Newsweek and the author of two acclaimed biographies, Charles M. Russell: The Life and Legend of America's Cowboy Artists and Tarzan Forever: The Life of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He lives in Austin, Texas and Pray, Montana.

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Great White Fathers: The Story of the Obsessive Quest to Create Mount Rushmore 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jonieMN More than 1 year ago
Our family had just been out to South Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore and the surrounding area. I started reading this book to pass travel time in the car. Upon returning home, I continued to read a little each night before bed. Not being an avid reader, I was surprised when I actually finished the book! The way it was written held my interest and I learned so much about the history during the time that this wonderful monument was built!