November 2016 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Early Mt. Rushmore Sketch at Auction

In this, Mount Rushmore's 75th anniversary year, an interesting auction lot has surfaced in London: a manuscript letter written by the South Dakota landmark's sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, to his collaborator, Jesse Grove Tucker. The three-page letter, dated c. 1925-26, also contains a partial sketch showing only Washington's rock face. The Rushmore project officially began in 1927, and was finally completed in 1941, shortly after Borglum's death.

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 9.04.42 PM.pngBorglum writes, "I've had a two hours talk with Norbeck, who you know is head of the Black Hills Park. I can't tell you all we talked about but it amounts to this. He goes home as soon as congress adjourns and jumps at once in to the monument work= meantime I go to Texas on the fifteenth stopping in Raleigh: where you and I should have a talk= that talk should deal with the question - number of men, money necessary to start and possibly cut the Washington Head on shoulder of cliff this summer." (You can read it in its entirety at Letters of Note.)

The provenance of this letter can be traced from the James S. Copley library to Florida collector Dan Brams, who purchased it at a book fair in New York in 2010. Later that year, he consigned it to auction, where it sold for $5,826 to UK dealer Paul Fraser, who, in turn, sold it, according to his blog post, "10 jaw-dropping objects sold by Paul Fraser Collectibles."

Back at auction on December 1, Bloomsbury Auctions estimates it will bring £2,000-3,000 ($2,500-$3,700). 

                                                                                                                                                Image via Bloomsbury Auctions.