“Failed Ideas Leading To And Resulting From Mount Rushmore,” by Jason Giltner

Dec 12th, 2018 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

The faces of four United States presidents were carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore over a 15 year period from1927 to 1941 by Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln Borglum. Today, Mount Rushmore is a prominent tourist destination and a staple of American culture.

The Borglums were also involved in a series of other projects inspired by American history. Those projects are detailed below.

1903, Boston, MA
Gutzon Borglum crafts an ode to The Sugar Act of 1764 out of a five-ton mound of sheer-alabaster. The piece is received poorly, called “uninspired and painfully unnecessary” by a local newspaper. It is removed several weeks later due to the lack of a proper permit.

1910, Gettysburg, PA
At the site of the infamous Civil War battle, Gutzon Borglum crafts a bronze statue of George Washington engaged in the sport of jousting. Historians refer to the piece as “historically inaccurate.”

1912, Omaha, NE
During a week-long lost weekend, Gutzon Borglum carves the face of United States Postal Service Postmaster General Frank H. Hitchcock, into the side of his neighbor’s log cabin. He is charged with vandalism, though the charges are later dropped by the cabin-owner after his property value increases 40% due to abnormally high statewide approval ratings for Postmaster Hitchcock. The home is burned down 5 years later when, during a week-long lost weekend, Gutzon Borglum attempts to permanently sear Postmaster Hitchcock’s face into the cabin using a primitive flamethrower.

1915, Milwaukee, WI
Gutzon Borglum is commissioned to design a statue for a new park. Three weeks in, and $7,000 over budget, the project is abandoned. Borglum reacts poorly to the disappointment, and two days later is arrested carving Warren G. Harding’s initials into Milwaukee City Hall.

1920, Stamford, CT
At the tender age of 8, Lincoln Borglum constructs a scale replica of the Palace of Versailles using nothing but Lincoln Logs and bubble gum. The palace is destroyed when, during a week-long lost weekend, Gutzon Borglum burns it to the ground using a primitive flamethrower.

1940, Keystone, SD
One year prior to his death, Gutzon Borglum submits a nude marble statue of himself to the Smithsonian. The statue is rejected.

1941, Keystone, SD
Gutzon Borglum dies in March. In October the Mount Rushmore project is halted due to a lack of funding.

1942, Boston, MA
Emotionally astray in the wake of the Mount Rushmore cancellation, Lincoln Borglum publicly vows to avenge his father’s unfinished vision. Over the next year he is seen and heard throughout Boston, attempting to assemble a rag tag group of sculptors for a grand project.

1945, Keystone, SD
Lincoln Borglum submits a nude marble statue of his father to the Smithsonian.The statue is rejected, though the rejection letter notes the statue to be “more anatomically correct” than the original submission.

1946, Warwick, RI
Lincoln Borglum holds a sculpting contest in an attempt to unearth raw talent. Two brothers from Providence win the contest with a butter sculpture depicting Preston Brooks cane-beating Charles Sumner on the floor of the United States Senate. The brothers accept the grand prize: a chance to join Lincoln Borglum on his grand project. They are never seen alive again.

1947, Santa Fe, NM
Ivan Houser, disgruntled assistant sculptor on the Mount Rushmore project,publicly mocks Gutzon Borglum posthumously in a local newspaper, calling him a”zounderkite.” Three weeks later, a large stone bust of William Howard Taft’s severed head appears on Houser’s front lawn. Lincoln Borglum is suspected.

1967, Siena, Italy
A maintenance worker at the Siena Cathedral discovers several gargoyles,vandalized to bear the resemblance of 13th President of the United States, Millard Fillmore. Though he has not been seen publicly in over twenty years,Lincoln Borglum is suspected.

1969, Moab, UT
A lost hiker stumbles upon a camp of twenty sculptors living in an abandoned uranium mine near Canyonlands National Park. The group provides him food and water, but club him over the head when he attempts to leave. He spends several days tied up in an old wooden shed, watching them work through the cracks in the walls. He gnaws through the ropes and escapes the camp under the cover of darkness. Upon arriving back in Moab he alerts the authorities. By the time the authorities arrive at the site, the group is gone. All that remains is a fifty-foot tall carving of oft-forgotten Founding Father, Roger Sherman, carved into a nearby cliff. Lincoln Borglum and his gang are suspected.

1973, Ludlow, CA
A stranded motorcyclist stumbles upon a camp of twenty sculptors living in an abandoned town. His motorcycle is spotted several weeks later by an amateur pilot. Investigators search the area for days, eventually discovering a complex system of underground tunnels. The tunnels lead to a large, ceremonial cavern.The body of the motorcyclist sits in the center of the cavern. Surrounding his body, on the cavern walls, are charcoal portraits of presidents Lyndon B. Johnson,Warren G. Harding, and James A. Garfield. Lincoln Borglum and his well-know appreciation for middle initials are suspected.

1985, Washington, D.C.
Lincoln Borglum reappears in public, attending the 2nd inauguration of Ronald Reagan without invitation. He attempts to present Nancy Reagan a marble bust of Bonzo, the chimpanzee from Bedtime for Bonzo. She denies the gesture. Lincoln Borglum is subsequently diagnosed with uranium poisoning. From his deathbed, he admits to the 1947 and 1967 events, though to his grave his vigorously denies the 1969 and 1973 allegations.

1995, Corpus Christi, TX
Lincoln Borglum’s body is dug up and replaced with a statue of Millard Fillmore. The event causes a short-lived zombie panic in the greater Corpus Christi area. The case remains open.


Lincoln Borglum’s grand project remains a subject of mystery and intrigue. It remains hidden somewhere in the shadows of the world, waiting patiently for its moment in the sun.


Jason Giltner is a writer from Minneapolis. His work has most recently appeared in McSweeney’s. He often lies awake at night thinking about how the Bat Signal is dependent on clouds. He isn’t sure whether his use of the word “lies” in the previous sentence was correct.

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