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Mount Rushmore “Shrine of Democracy”

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Gift of Dr. Frank B. Arian, The National WWII Museum Inc, 2009.451.694

Construction on Mount Rushmore National Monument in South Dakota began in 1927. Intended to promote tourism in the region, Mount Rushmore would come to be known as the “Shrine of Democracy.” At the unveiling of the head of Thomas Jefferson on August 30, 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt remarked:  “Mr. Borglum [the sculptor] has well said that this can be a monument and an inspiration for the continuance of the democratic-republican form of government, not only in our own beloved country, but, we hope, throughout the world.” Although the initial concept of the monument involved further sculpting, work on Mount Rushmore was discontinued and the work declared complete in 1941 due, in no small part, to the approaching war and insufficient funds. October 31 would be the last day of carving.

Rapid City Army Air Base (now Ellsworth Air Force Base), located only about 30 miles from Mount Rushmore, also opened in 1941. This matchbook featured the newly opened attraction, which would have been seen by the many bombardment groups training in the area.

The National Park Service has operated the monument, which attracts 2 million visitors annually, since 1933.

Post by The National WWII Museum Curator Kimberly Guise.

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