Excursion Study Guide


Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. The "Shrine of Democracy" features the busts of four outstanding Presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Each head is about 60 feet tall. According to scale, this would compute to a human of some 465 feet in height!

The idea for Mount Rushmore was conceived in 1923. Construction began, with Gutzon Borglum directing, in mid-1927. Carving was accomplished through laborious drilling with pneumatic hammers and controlled blasting with dynamite. The last details of the spectacular structure were completed in late 1941, after Borglum's death, by his son Lincoln. About six and a half years of actual work went into the 14-year project, which was beset with numerous intermittent lapses due to inclement weather and shortage of funds. The total cost came to just under $1 million, double the initial estimate.

Mount Rushmore is part of the National Park System and is a popular tourist attraction, hosting in excess of two million visitors each year. It is a scenic 30-mile drive from Rapid City. The grounds, which have recently undergone an extensive multi-million dollar renovation, include the Avenue of Flags (the 50 state and six territorial flags displayed alphabetically), a world-class museum, an amphitheater, the Grand View Terrace, and a restaurant. Active visitors will appreciate the half mile-long Presidential Trail, which leads to the very foot of the memorial. Each evening, powerful lights illuminate the faces. A modest parking fee was instituted in 1997, but otherwise the memorial charges no admission. Summer hours stretch from early morning to late night; off-season times are more limited.


This excursion is a half-day affair. Cost may include nominal bus fare (payable to instructor prior to departure) and meal money (students may bring sack lunches instead). Since some of the activities are outdoors, careful attention to the day's weather forecast is important to determine appropriate outer wear. Students are expected at all times to demonstrate good manners and common courtesy. Please click here for a complete description of this activity.


Students begin with a base of 50 points (assuming fee is paid and no behavior problems arise). Additional points accumulate relative to successful completion of the following activities.
  • Complete the study guide (20 points).
  • View film in one of the theaters (10 points).
  • Browse the museum (10 points).
  • Walk the Presidential Trail (10 points).
  • Pause momentarily to gaze at the beautiful blue sky and green trees, take a deep breath of fresh air, and thank your lucky stars you live in America (5 bonus points).


Select the best response for each item according to information learned during the excursion as well as through preparatory lectures and assigned reading.
  1. The concept for Mount Rushmore was proposed by the:
    1. South Dakota State Historical Society
    2. National Park Service
    3. Sierra Club
    4. National Geographic Society

  2. Most of the memorial's construction cost:
    1. was obtained through private donations
    2. was approved by the State of South Dakota
    3. came from revenue raised by video lottery
    4. was appropriated by the federal government

  3. All of the following are true of Mount Rushmore except:
    1. geologists express serious concern about natural erosion of the faces over the next century
    2. the Hall of Records carved behind the faces contains historical information for reference thousands of years in the future
    3. Thomas Jefferson was first carved to George Washington's right, but had to be relocated when the rock there proved faulty
    4. despite the dangerous work involved in carving the memorial over a 14-year a period, not a single fatality occurred

  4. Gutzon Borglum's initial plan for Mount Rushmore:
    1. featured only two Presidents—George Washington and Abraham Lincoln
    2. called for a total of six Presidents to be crafted, but lack of available space on the mountain prohibited that number
    3. included an aerial tramway that would take visitors to the very top of the heads
    4. was to carve explorers of the West, such as Jim Bridger, Zebulon Pike, and John Frémont, instead of Presidents

  5. Originally, South Dakota officials had envisioned giant carvings:
    1. in the Needles, a group of distinctive stone spires in the Black Hills
    2. on Devils Tower in eastern Wyoming
    3. in the Badlands of south central South Dakota
    4. on Harney Peak, the highest point in the state

  6. The selection of what people would appear on Mount Rushmore was:
    1. made by the South Dakota Historical Society
    2. accomplished through a nationwide public poll
    3. purely the decision of Gutzon Borglum
    4. determined by area Sioux Indians and approved by Congress

  7. The most youthful of the four faces is that of:
    1. George Washington
    2. Thomas Jefferson
    3. Theodore Roosevelt
    4. Abraham Lincoln

  8. The appearance of Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore is meant to symbolize:
    1. the founding of the United States upon achieving independence from Great Britain
    2. America's democratic political philosophy and great westward expansion
    3. preservation of the Union and individual freedom for all
    4. the worldwide responsibilities of the United States and conservation of its western lands

  9. The President when the Mount Rushmore blasting commenced was:
    1. Woodrow Wilson
    2. Warren Harding
    3. Calvin Coolidge
    4. Herbert Hoover

  10. The rock structure of Mount Rushmore is primarily:
    1. quartz
    2. sandstone
    3. marble
    4. granite

  11. The correct sequence in which workers performed the following tasks as Mount Rushmore was shaped section-by-section is:
    1. honeycombing; bumping; pointing; blasting
    2. blasting; pointing; bumping; honeycombing
    3. pointing; blasting; honeycombing; bumping
    4. bumping; honeycombing; blasting; pointing

  12. Gutzon Borglum's favorite President was:
    1. George Washington
    2. Abraham Lincoln
    3. Theodore Roosevelt
    4. Woodrow Wilson

  13. Other suggestions at one time or another for the Mount Rushmore faces have included all of the following except:
    1. Susan B. Anthony
    2. George Armstrong Custer
    3. John F. Kennedy
    4. Franklin D. Roosevelt

  14. Charles E. Rushmore, after whom the mountain cliff is named, was:
    1. an attorney from New York who visited the Black Hills in the mid-1880s
    2. Gutzon Borglum's guide and geological expert
    3. the governor of South Dakota during most of the 1920s
    4. Secretary of the Interior under President Theodore Roosevelt

  15. The most controversial decision concerning the Presidents appearing on Mount Rushmore was the:
    1. position of George Washington
    2. omission of Andrew Jackson
    3. inclusion of Theodore Roosevelt
    4. total number of faces to be carved

  16. The Presidential Trail was completed in 1998 partly through a hefty financial donation from:
    1. the Smithsonian Institute
    2. Coca-Cola Company, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, where Gutzon Borglum carved Stone Mountain
    3. the estate of former President Richard M. Nixon
    4. Johnston & Murphy, a shoe company based in Nashville, Tennessee

  17. All of the following Presidents once followed the Presidential Trail except:
    1. Calvin Coolidge
    2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
    3. Dwight D. Eisenhower
    4. Jimmy Carter

  18. The Mount Rushmore busts face toward the general direction of:
    1. Arizona
    2. Florida
    3. Oregon
    4. Vermont

  19. Placed along the Presidential Trail in key spots relative to the four faces are placards containing some pictures and brief biographical data for each President. The portrait of Abraham Lincoln is from the collection of renowned photographer:
    1. Mathew Brady
    2. Charles Russell
    3. Thomas Nast
    4. Frederic Remington

  20. Theodore Roosevelt received his formal education at:
    1. Harvard University
    2. the University of Virginia
    3. Columbia University
    4. Oregon State University

  21. Other works (partial or complete) of Gutzon Borglum include all of the following except:
    1. Stone Mountain (Georgia)
    2. Trail Drivers Memorial (Texas)
    3. Statue of Liberty (New York)
    4. Crazy Horse Memorial (South Dakota)

  22. The Avenue of Flags is arranged:
    1. alphabetically
    2. by region (New England, South, Pacific Northwest, etc.)
    3. according to each state's year of statehood
    4. randomly; there is no apparent purposeful pattern

  23. From its base, the South Dakota flag protrudes to the:
    1. North
    2. South
    3. East
    4. West

  24. The cafeteria's breakfast plate special called the "Teddy Roosevelt" features:
    1. scrambled eggs and hashed browns
    2. French toast
    3. oatmeal and fresh fruit
    4. biscuits and gravy

  25. The rock and roll group which released a record album in 1970 with cover artwork depicting its five band members carved in stone to resemble Mount Rushmore was:
    1. Cream
    2. Led Zeppelin
    3. Queen
    4. Deep Purple

  26. The most famous Hollywood movie showing Mount Rushmore is the Alfred Hitchcock thriller entitled:
    1. Cool Hand Luke
    2. North by Northwest
    3. Vertigo
    4. High Noon


Provide five important facts you learned from this excursion, assigned reading, and lecture about Mount Rushmore.


Choose one of the following. Your response should be 3-5 typed, double-spaced pages and include a list of sources used (minimum of two required).
  1. Select any one of the Presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore and justify his greatness, either through personal traits, specific accomplishments, or a combination of both. Provide at least three supports.

  2. Pick any one of the Mount Rushmore Presidents and discuss the legitimacy of the memorable title history has bestowed upon him.
                George Washington = "Father of Our Country"
                Thomas Jefferson = "Sage of Monticello"
                Abraham Lincoln = "Great Emancipator"
                Theodore Roosevelt = "Trust-Buster"

  3. Pretend it is the 1920s and you have final approval authority over which Presidents will be carved on Mount Rushmore. After reviewing Gutzon Borglum's proposal of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, you have decided to make a change. Instead of __________, you will have Borglum include __________. Fill in the blanks and tell what arguments you would use to convince Borglum, who is not particularly enthusiastic about your suggestion.

"...a cornerstone laid by the hand of the Almighty."

Click here to learn more about Mount Rushmore National Memorial.