Gutzon Borglum


Gutzon Borglum was the first sculptor to attempt to carve a Confederate memorial on Stone Mountain. He was approached by Mrs. Helen Plane, charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, in 1915. She wished for Borglum to design and carve a 70-foot statue of General Robert E. Lee on the mountain's steep side. Borglum accepted the challenge of carving on the mountain, but told Mrs. Plane that placing a 70-foot carving of Lee on the side of this, the largest granite outcropping in the world, would be comparable to placing a postage stamp on the side of a barn. Borglum began to contemplate a Confederate memorial on Stone Mountain, and his ideas eventually evolved into a scene of Confederate greats Lee, Davis, and Jackson riding around the mountain, followed by a legion of artillery troops.

After a delay caused by World War I, Borglum and the newly-chartered Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association set to work on this monument, the size of which had never been attempted before. Work proceeded very slowly. Many difficulties arose because of the sheer magnitude of the undertaking. After finishing the detailed model of the carving, Borglum was unable to trace his ideas onto the massive area onto which he was working. After developing a projector to thrust the image onto the side of the mountain, Borglum and his crew of engineers and laborers were able to set to work on the actual carving.

Carving officially began on June 23, 1923, when Borglum himself cut the first granite from the mountain. Lee's head was finished in time for the anniversary of Lee's birth, January 19, 1924, when a large gathering witnessed the unveiling of Lee's head. This celebration was the high point in Borglum's association with the carving. After this point, work began to slow and Borglum was increasingly at odds with the officials of the Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association. Tension rose to the point that in March of 1925, Borglum had his models destroyed and fled Georgia. His tenure with the Association was over. A more detailed account of Borglum's dealings with the Monumental Association is found in The Undefeatedby Gerald W. Johnson.

After his experience with the Monumental Association, Borglum went on to carve Mount Rushmore, where he gained his fame. None of his work remains, as it was all cleared for the work of Augustus Lukeman, Borglum's replacement.




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