Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School

Political Science

First Advisor

Edward Sidlow


Carved into a granite cliff six thousand miles above sea level in rural South Dakota is where we find ourselves. It was here in October 1927 that a Danish-American man, Gutzon Borglum, and his son, aptly named Lincoln, began sculpting a monument to greatness. Construction took fourteen years and four-hundred workers with a price tag of nearly $1 million. Three million people will visit this year, which is more than three times the state's population.1 The architect of this pantheon explains the rationale best by saying, "The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt."2 Arthur Schlesinger would not publish the first rankings on Presidential Greatness for another twenty one years, but in the fall of 1927, Borglum' s team had already registered an unofficial vote in what would become a central debate in American life: Who are the great presidents?