In August 1924, South Dakota Department of History Superintendent Doane Robinson invited Gutzon Borglum to the Black Hills to discuss a “heroic sculpture of unusual character.” In a letter to Borglum, Robinson indicated that there were a wide variety of opportunities for large sculptures in the vicinity of present-day Black Elk Peak in Custer State Park.
It didn’t take Borglum long to respond to Robinson’s request. In his response, Borglum told Robinson that he was ahead of schedule in his current work in the South and would travel to the Black Hills in September.
Holding true to his word, Borglum toured Custer State Park where he climbed what was then known as Harney Peak and stayed the night at Sylvan Lake. His initial visit brought widespread attention to the idea of creating enormous sculptures in the Black Hills. Borglum visited the Black Hills again in 1925 when he discovered Mount Rushmore. From that point on, Robinson played an instrumental role in ensuring that Borglum’s vision for the mountain became a reality.
To learn more about Mount Rushmore, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s digital history archive. The South Dakota State Historical Society hosts an extensive collection of Doane Robinson’s correspondence and manuscripts on their website.