Don “Nick” Clifford and Carolyn Clifford, Mount Rushmore Q&A (Revised, 2012) — Book Review

© 2012 Peter Free


09 July 2012


Photograph of authors Don Nick Clifford and Carolyn Clifford with their book, "Mount Rushmore Q&A," taken 08 July 2012 at Mount Rushmore.


Authors Don “Nick” Clifford and Carolyn Clifford, with my wife (08 July 2012)





Don “Nick” Clifford and Carolyn Clifford, Mount Rushmore Q&A (Revised, 2012)



An outstanding, concise compilation of answers to questions about the process of carving Mount Rushmore — by one of the workers


Nick Clifford is one of the workers who did various skilled jobs during the stone carving from 1938 through 1940.  His wife, Carolyn, edited his memories in the form of answers to questions that Park visitors have asked him over the years.


The book is notable for its common sense editing and organization.  And it gives readers insight into the details of the herculean construction process that this impressive monument underwent.


The volume also serves as a surprisingly good view of some aspects of life in the 1920s and 30s in this part of the country.  For example, there is a brief discussion of Mr. Clifford’s boyhood paper route and the process he went through to get the job at Mount Rushmore.


This 69-page, high quality printing is well worth its $10 price.



Three samples from the text


Regarding how the tools were powered:


There were no roads or power lines to the mountain in 1927. . . . The first power came from a donated, used submarine diesel engine.  Located in Keystone, the engine ran the generator, and power poles and lines were built to the mountain.  This turned out to be unsatisfactory due to many breakdowns and the engine finally blew up.


The Holy Terror Mine in Keystone started another power company, which furnished the power to Mountain Rushmore as well as to Keystone.  The power came on at 7 a.m. and at 10:55 p.m. the lights in Keystone would blink to let Keystone residents know the lights were going off. 


© 2012 Don “Nick” Clifford and Carolyn Clifford, Mount Rushmore Q&A (Revised, 2012) (at page 8)


Of the number of workers required:


Most people do not realize that Mr. Borglum trained between thirty-five and forty men who lived in Keystone.  When construction at the mountain would shut down, they had to find other jobs.


All of these men were dedicated to Mr. Borglum and his task, so when money was available to begin work again, they went back to their jobs at Mount Rushmore.


Without these dedicated and experienced men there would not be a mountain carving . . . .


© 2012 Don “Nick” Clifford and Carolyn Clifford, Mount Rushmore Q&A (Revised, 2012) (at pages 14-15) (paragraph split)


On smoothing the presidents’ faces:


The tool used was an air driven hammer about twelve inches long with a four-pronged piece of steel that both spun around and hit in and out against the granite.  It moved very fast and knocked off the rough edges, smoothing the faces and giving them a white color.


© 2012 Don “Nick” Clifford and Carolyn Clifford, Mount Rushmore Q&A (Revised, 2012) (at page 20)





The book is illustrated with predominantly black and white photographs pertinent to the sculpting process, as well as to Mr. Clifford’s related life at the time.  One chapter explains the significance of the workers’ baseball team that is prominently featured in the Park Museum.


Taken together, the book’s pictures make a valuable contribution to the text.  The quality of their reproduction exceeds that of the series that are posted in the Park Museum.



Printer — an added plus


Being a determined “Made in USA” buyer, I was pleased to see that the Cliffords’ book was printed by Arizona Lithographers in Tucson, a company that uses entirely wind-generated energy.



Highly recommended


I ordinarily avoid tourist-oriented publications, but this one is so concisely and informatively written and illustrated that it serves as a tie to meaningful history that is likely to be re-read.