There are certain monuments that are so identified with the United States and so ingrained in our consciousness that it’s hard to believe they weren’t always there. But the Statue of Liberty and especially Mount Rushmore are relatively new to the country.

In the 1920s, a man stood gazing at Cougar Mountain in South Dakota. It was an ancient part of the landscape of the Black Hills of South Dakota, but the man looking at the mountain so intently had a vision of something very different.

Cougar Mountain prior to metamorphosing into Mount Rushmore

The idea of a Mt. Rushmore that featured faces carved into the granite face gazing at the horizon was first conceived by Doane Robinson, a South Dakota historian. Senator Peter Norbeck of South Dakota sponsored the project and secured government funding.

Robinson, wanted the mountain to feature Old West persons of importance, specifically Buffalo Bill Cody, Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, and Crazy Horse. The sculptor that designed the monument as we know it was Gutzon Borglum. He decided the heroes of the Old West would not have the broad appeal of popular U.S. presidents, and the final design featured the visages of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. There was no doubt the presidents were appealing to Borglum; he named his own son Lincoln.


It took 14 years to complete. This may seem like a long time, but carving in granite is not easy. To give you an idea of the scale, each president’s head was 60 feet tall. The project officially began construction in 1927, and by 1939 the presidents’ faces were complete.

In this photo, Lincoln looks like he’s wearing a face mask. He’d fit right in today.


Thomas Jefferson
Hanging out with Lincoln


Roosevelt under construction



Borglum planned for each of the presidents to be depicted down to the waist, but when the funding fell through, the project was declared complete on Halloween of 1941. Gutzon Borglum had died seven months earlier, still expecting the presidents to be depicted from head to waist.


Sunset at Mount Rushmore

Fun fact: Crazy Horse still got his rock memorial, and just 17 miles away. Construction started in 1948 but it’s not finished and may never be. The Crazy Horse memorial is huge already, but the planned dimensions are 641 feet long and 563 feet high. The arm of Crazy Horse will be 263 feet long and the head 87 feet high; 45% larger than the presidents’ faces on Mount Rushmore.

Crazy Horse’s face


The Statue of Liberty is now one of the most famous symbols of America. But the French who gave it to us meant it to symbolize the friendship between our great countries, so it is a symbol of both friendship and liberty. Not a bad combination!

The Statue of Liberty’s face

Frédéric Bartholdi designed the Statue of Liberty in France, The colossal statue had to be dismantled to transport it to New York. It arrived in more than 300 pieces of copper and iron in New York City Harbor in 1885.

Statue of Liberty’s toes

The torch-bearing arm of the Statue of Liberty was displayed at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition in 1876 and then at Madison Square Park at 23rd Street from 1876-1882 to generate funds to pay for labor needed to reassemble the Statue labor. It cost 50¢ to climb to the torch balcony!

The Statue of Liberty’s torch in Madison Square
Original construction of the hand of Lady Liberty
Statue of Liberty’s head


Note the statue was still a coppery dark bronzed color. 134 years out in the elements have created her instantly recognizable green hue.

The Statue of Liberty was inaugurated on Liberty Island, New York in October 1886.

Loie Fuller is a turn-of-the-century dancer whose name stands apart. She is often coupled with the great Isadora Duncan, who was also an experimental dancer, but Loie Fuller was first. Fuller is most closely associated with Art Nouveau. She first came to prominence in the 1890s and was admired and imitated well into the 1900s. Like many luminaries of her time, Fuller caused a sensation in France; Paris called her La Loïe.

The image at the top is a poster designed by Jules Cheret in 1893 to advertise an upcoming performance at La Folies Bergère cabaret in Paris.

Loie Fuller, Library of Congress


She was born Marie Louise Fuller near Chicago, Illinois. Loie was introduced to public life early. She was a professional child actress, who later became interested in dancing and lighting effects. Loie Fuller developed her own free dance techniques. She performed choreography in long silk dresses before multi-colored lights.

Her talent was instantly recognized. The poet William Butler Yeats admired her and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painted her. Even the legendary Lumière brothers were entranced. Auguste and Louis Lumière were amongst the very first pioneers into filmmaking and they were captivated by Loie’s Serpentine dance.


Lumière brothers

Strangely, despite nearly every important pioneer filmmaker working with Loie Fuller at some point, their original films of her were lost. What remains are their contemporaneous movies of other women performing Fuller’s famous serpentine dance.

Color film was many years in the future, so the colors you see here have been hand-colored by the filmmakers on a frame-by-frame basis, to capture the dazzling multi-colored effects of Loie Fuller’s live shows.




Should you want to learn more about Loie Fuller, I recommend this excellent article on the Public Domain Review.

As a companion to last week’s post about young native Americans, this post is about elderly native Americans, taken at roughly the same time. It’s more interesting to look at the faces of the very old than younger people, because you can see the marks life has left on their faces. The lines on their faces tell us a lot about them: did they smile a lot or were they stern? Are they stooped or standing straight? How formal are they?

The first photograph was taken in 1906 by Frank Bennet Fiske. It depicts an elder in tribal dress with the fascinating name No Heart. It was taken in the North Dakota Badlands. If I were guessing by his eyes- or for that matter his name- I’d say he was a fierce character in his youth.

There was a man named No Heart, who was the chief of the Ioway tribe, but I don’t know if this is the same person. You can read more about him here.

The second photo is a centenarian Pueblo Indian woman named Juanita. The photo was taken by David Thomas Duckwall in 1902, and lists her age as 108. That would mean this woman was born in 1794! It’s difficult to tell what Juanita would have looked like earlier in her life, but she still had very beautiful hair– at age 108!



This is Washakie, Chief of Shoshones! This photograph was taken shortly before his death in 1900, by photographers Rose & Hopkins.

Per, Chief Washakie is one of the most famous Eastern Shoshone leaders. He played a prominent role in the territorial and statehood development of Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. He was also well known for his kindness and graciousness to white settlers. His people would help travelers cross the dangerous terrain, and ensure no harm came to him. In an extraordinary testament to how beloved Washakie was, nine thousand grateful settlers once signed a document commending Washakie and his people for their kind treatment.

Washakie was very obviously someone who commands respect. Even his picture, staring down over 100 years into today, demands your attention. His face reflects the characteristics you would expect, based on what we know of him: humor, generosity, and benevolence.

Chief Washakie was born in Montana in 1804, which means he is about 96 years old in the first picture, which is incredible. The second picture is from Brittanica, and gives us a look at Washakie in 1880, when he would have been 76.



Washakie in 1880


The next two photographs were taken by O.J. Wingren, in La Conner, Washington in 1907.

The subject is Dr. Joseph, the chief medicine man of the Swinomish Reservation. The first photograph notes he is an elderly Swinomish traditional healer. Even though the photos are similar, it looks like they were taken on different days. He has a difficult face to read; I could only guess that he was an intelligent person and maybe someone who tended to be melancholy.



I hadn’t heard of La Conner before, but learned that it’s at the extreme Northwestern part of the country.


This photograph is titled Elk Woman. It was taken in 1900, and credited to photographers Heyn and Matzen, Chicago. The photograph notes that the woman is Sioux, but that’s all that we know factually about her. The deep lines in her forehead look like she’s had troubles in her life, but I would also guess she was unusually independent. Clues: the way she holds her mouth, the expression of her eyes, and her fastidiously neat clothing.