Fourteen years after he began carving Mount Rushmore, sculptor Gutzon Borglum died at age 73 in Chicago after surgery.
The son of Mormon Danish immigrants, Danish-American Gutzon Borglum was born in 1867 in St. Charles in what was then Idaho Territory, according to Wikipedia. Borglum was a child of Mormon polygamy. His father, Jens Møller Haugaard Børglum, had two wives when he lived in Idaho: Gutzon's mother and Gutzon's mother's sister, who was Jens's first wife. Jens decided to leave Mormonism and moved back to Omaha, Neb. Jens worked mainly as a woodcarver before leaving Idaho to attend the Saint Louis Homeopathic Medical College in Saint Louis, Mo.
Upon his graduation from the Missouri Medical College in 1874, Dr. Borglum moved the family to Fremont, Neb., where he established a medical practice. Gutzon Borglum remained in Fremont until 1882, when his father enrolled him in St. Mary's College in Kansas. After a brief stint at Saint Mary's College, Gutzon Borglum relocated to Omaha where he apprenticed in a machine shop and graduated from Creighton Preparatory School.
Borglum was trained in Paris at the Académie Julian, where he came to know Auguste Rodin and was influenced by Rodin's impressionistic light-catching surfaces. Back in the U.S. in New York City, he had a sculpture accepted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1906 -- the first sculpture by a living American for the museum.
He began work at Mount Rushmore in 1927. His first attempt with the face of Thomas Jefferson was blown up after two years. Borglum alternated exhausting on-site supervising of work with world tours, raising money and polishing his personal legend. His son Lincoln Borglum supervised work in his father's absence.
After his father's death, Lincoln Borglum finished another season at Rushmore but left the monument largely in the state of completion it had reached under his father's direction.
Read more about Mount Rushmore on the Black Hills Knowledge Network.