Gutzon Borglum meets Mount Rushmore

Welcome back funny names fans!

We interrupt this post for an announcement . . . I am busting to tell you about some good news. I received word over the weekend that my book proposal for dementia home care was accepted.

*Fannie does a happy dance and blows a party horn.*

Thanks for taking the time to celebrate with me.

Now back to our regularly scheduled post.

Gutzon Borglum may look glum, but he had an exceptional mustache.

John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum commonly known as Gutzon Borglum, was an artist and sculptor with a pretty darn good name.

He was born on March 25, 1867 the son of Danish immigrants, His Mormon father, Jens Moller Haugaard Borglum, in a polygamist marriage to his mother, Christina Mikkelsen Borglum. Christina’s sister, Ida, was Jens first wife. They lived in Idaho where polygamy was legal at the time. Do you imagine there may have been some friction in the family?

Jens decide to leave Mormonism and moved the family to Omaha, Nebraska, where polygamy was illegal and highly frowned on. So Jens divorced Ida, stayed with Christina, and took Ida’s two kids as well as Gutzon and his brother, Solon.

Jens got a degree in medicine, then moved the family to Freemont, Nebraska, where Jens establish his practice. Gutzon remained there until 1882 when his father enrolled him in St. Mary’s College in Kansas.

Gutzon only lasted a short time at St. Mary’s. He dropped out. He found himself back in Nebraska, because he was not in Kansas anymore, and apprenticed himself to a machine shop where he worked his way through Creighton Preparatory School. From there he pursued his artistic interest at a myriad of schools, Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, Académie Julian, École des Beaux-Arts and California School of Design. His talent grew and his reputation emerged for being a domineering, perfectionist and authoritarian.

In the midst of all this he romanced and married one of his art instructors, Elizabeth Janes Putnam—19 years his senior. They spent the next ten years traveling Europe studying art and exhibiting their craft. They returned to the U.S. and purchased a home in California. Because of a bad economy in California, they returned to Europe. Due to some marital issues, Elizabeth left Europe and moved back to their home in California. They divorced in 1908.

Gutzon then married Mary Montgomery Williams Borglum in 1916. It must have gone well because they sired three children together.

After several successes as a sculptor, Gutzon was tapped to work on the Mount Rushmore project in 1927. Perhaps perfectionism was the key to his getting the job. The original plan for the monument was for Washington and Jefferson. The first attempt at Jefferson’s face blew up only two years into the project. I suspect dynamite may have played a role. Dynamite was also used to removed rock from underneath Washington’s epic brow. The project soon expanded, not to be confused with exploded, to include Lincoln and Roosevelt.

For the first seven years, Ivan Houser was Gutzon’s assistant sculptor. Houser moved on to pursue his own artistic endeavors without Gutzon. Gutzon’s son, Lincoln, stepped up to the post in 1934 and helped his father with the project until Gutzon’s death in 1941. Lincoln finished the last of the work his father had directed prior to passing then left the rest of the project incomplete.

So the next time you visit Mount Rushmore thank Gutzon because of an idea that was spawn and on the mountain was drawn to create the faces that glisten white at dawn because of his artistic use of dynamite brawn.

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

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About Fannie Cranium

Writing since she could first hold a pen, Tracy Perkins formed her alter ego, "Fannie Cranium" at the suggestion of her husband. Tracy understands smiling makes people wonder what she’s been up to.
This entry was posted in funny names in art and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Gutzon Borglum meets Mount Rushmore

  1. wdydfae says:

    Congratulations on the book, Fannie!!!!!! Way to go!!!!!!

    I also thank you for recovering this name for me. I remember it because (getting a little off color here . . . you’ve been forewarned) my mom used to tell me that this particular name “sounded like a f**t in the bathtub.”

    I always remembered that, and the name, too (but not the spelling), but I couldn’t remember whose name it was.

    • Thanks, Wdydfae! And regarding Gutzon, thanks for the warning. I put down my cup of coffee for safety reasons before I continued reading. But it did not stop me from snorting when I laughed out loud.

      If my mom said the same thing it would have stuck with me for life!

  2. Reblogged this on Fannie Cranium's and commented:

    Ever wondered who sculpted Mount Rushmore? Meet Gutzon Borglum over at the Blog of Funny Names.

  3. kerbey says:

    The dawn of this brawn was not a yawn. If the Swedish Chef were here, I can hear him saying, “Shern de shern de herf and Gutzon Borglum to you” as a congrats. I guess we can’t blame him for the failure of his first marriage; he didn’t exactly have a great example.

  4. aplscruf says:

    Wow, that name is a mouthful. Or a tub-full…

    Nice use of poetry in the end!

    See you at Plum-Jam-A-Thon!

  5. Congratulations, Fannie! That’s fantastic. Well done.

    I visited Mount Rushmore (for the first time) this summer so did some reading up on Gutzon Borglum. I had missed the detail, however, that his father had been married to two sisters. Awkward.

  6. ksbeth says:

    i love his story and of course he was destined to have multiple wives, though not at the same time, mind you – gutzon was a progressive compared to his ancestors

  7. Dave says:

    Wow, that’s amazing news Fannie! Congrats!!! I think we covered Gutzon years ago in one of our early posts before anyone was reading this blog, but it’s so awesome to see that name again. He’s a legend. That’s so exciting about your book proposal news. That’s awesome!! Hopefully soon I’ll be hearing good news from residency programs…

    • Dave thank you so much. I should have done my homework to see if you’d already done Gutzon. My head has been in the clouds of a book proposal its due this Friday (10/5).

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you will get the the news soon on your residency. I can’t wait to see where you land. If it’s far enough north, perhaps Mr. Cranium and I can swing by for a visit and welcome you to your new place.

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