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Gutzon Borglum Texas Papers

 Collection
Identifier: Coll-274
This collection is centered on Gutzon Borglum’s activities in Texas from the mid 1920’s until his death in 1941. During this time Borglum undertook many projects throughout the state, some of which were great successes, and some that fell apart despite how much effort he put into them. It contains thorough biographical material, a significant amount of correspondence to and from Borglum, and detailed project files that show how they progressed from conception to reality.

Dates

  • 1921 - 2020

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions

Conditions Governing Use

This material is made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user assumes full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to taking precautions against infringement of copyright and respecting the publication rights of reproduced materials. All rights are reserved and retained regardless of current or future development or laws that may apply to fair use standards. Any materials used should be fully credited with their source according to the example given in the Preferred Citation note. Requests for assistance with citations and images of publication quality should be directed to specialcollections@tamucc.edu

Extent

1 Linear Feet

Overview

Gutzon Borglum was a world-renowned artist and sculptor, most famous for his creation of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This collection covers the time he worked on that project, and many other smaller scale projects that he worked on with varying degrees of success from his studio in San Antonio, Texas.

Biographical / Historical

John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum was born in Idaho Territory in 1867 to polygamous Mormon parents. After graduating from Creighton Preparatory School, he began traveling and became a student of William Keith. While studying under Keith, he met Elizabeth Janes Putnam, and became her pupil. They married in 1889, with Putnam being 19 years Borglum’s senior. After traveling extensively throughout Europe and studying at Paris’s Académie Julian, they separated in 1903 and divorced in 1908.

Borglum had by this time become a notable sculptor, and became the first living sculptor to have a piece purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1909 he married Mary Williams Montgomery Borglum, and they went on to have three children. They lived in Stamford, Connecticut for a decade, where Borglum took in Czechoslovak Legion members who were fighting on the Allied side during World War I.

He also became embroiled in politics with the Ku Klux Klan, though there is no evidence he was ever a member. It is rumored that this association led to his removal from the Stone Mountain Project, a mountain carving in Georgia that was to feature Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson. He got as far as carving Lee’s head before tensions caused him to leave the project, and Lee’s portrait was eventually dynamited off the mountain by Borglum’s replacement, Henry Lukeman.

Borglum did not leave empty handed, however. He had developed several useful techniques to sculpting on such a large scale and put that knowledge to work on his next project. Mount Rushmore would be Borglum’s crowning achievement, even as it also became controversial due to the Lakota Sioux Native American history in the Black Hills of South Dakota where it was created. Mount Rushmore National Memorial contains four sixty-foot-tall sculptures of the heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln clustered together high atop a 5,725-foot mountain, originally known as The Six Grandfathers to Lakota Sioux. It is the top tourist attraction in South Dakota with over two million visitors a year.

During the late 1920’s, Borglum set up a studio in a disused pumphouse in San Antonio, Texas. It was here that he created the model for Mount Rushmore, and also developed several ideas for large public monuments throughout Texas. He clashed with politicians in Corpus Christi over an extensive bayfront rejuvenation that would have also had a thirty-foot-tall sculpture of Jesus Christ, Corpus Christi’s namesake. The project eventually fell through. He had successes elsewhere, creating a large bronze sculpture for the Texas Traildrivers, the sculpture Wars in America in Newark, New Jersey, and a statue of Woodrow Wilson in Pozan, Poland. The statue of Wilson was later destroyed during the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II.

Borglum’s works are still highly regarded and can be found in many corners of America. He was an unabashed nationalist and believer in Manifest Destiny. His enthusiasm and skills are evident in his work, and in much of the correspondence in this collection. He died of a heart attack at the age of 73 in 1941.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in five series, Biographical, Correspondence, Borglum Studio, Specific Projects and Works, and Historical Marker, Newspaper Clippings & Other Documents. Within those series are twenty-seven folders. A large portion of this collection is made up of correspondence. Some of that correspondence has been left with the project folders when it was about a specific plan Borglum was working on. This is how the materials were donated.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated by Robin Borglum Carter Kennedy, Gutzon Borglum’s granddaughter on October 9, 2020

Processing Information

This collection was arranged by Eric Christensen, Assistant Librarian of Archive Processing for Texas A&M University– Corpus Christi’s Special Collections & Archives Department.