My ‘Monumental’ Musical

I am now working on a movie script, and Broadway musical about the artistic tribulations of Gutzon Borglum, the creator of Mount Rushmore, and, Stone Mountain. The NAACP claims it is not asking for its removal, just a drastic alterations so as to further end the notion that white folks are superior to black folks. I think this would be defacing and destroying a work of art. What would Gutzon have to say?

Well, I am going to raise Borglum from the dead in my movie and musical. I will go into the mind of a fellow artist and sculptor, who happens to be white. Not since Oklahoma, Paint Your Wagon, and, The Birth of Nation, will there be such a monumental music and imagery – that will be BIGGER than Hamilton!

I see the Battle of Swinging Chiselers, men in harnesses dueling each other – high in the air. I see Helen Plane and her Daughters of the Confederacy. Gutzon was a reformed member of the KKK, because he was the patron of Jessie Benton, the wife of John Fremont, a co-founder of the Abolitionist Republican Party. If anyone is going to replace Robert E. Lee, then let it be Fremont – and some Radical Republicans. How about the Jessie Scouts! I tried to give this history away to the head of our local NAACP, who frowned when I told him it was my German ancestors who did much of the fighting during the Civil War – to free the slaves. Black people would not be free – if not for them. Erik saw this as an attempt to be superior to him.

Folks may come to blows on Broadway. Let our divided nation speak its mind – and Borglum! Let Freedom of Expression, ring – and swing! We are who we are! We art what we art! ‘Monumental’ will run a hundred years! It will be BIGGER than ‘Gone With The Wind’! MUCH BIGGER!  Why not put Rhett and Scarlet up there – and Mammy? Why doesn’t the NAACP ask for the burning of all copies of GWTW? We need some women up on that rock, dab-nabbit!

Uh-oh! What if Borglum was not a reformed racist when he did Mount Rushmore? Was he bent on depicting white men looking down their refined aquiline noses at the black race? Isn’t the NAACP obligated to go after Gutzon’s other world of art?

Jon Presco

Copyright 2018


Artistic Development of Gutzon Borglum







borg2The greatest artist to come out of Nebraska – by far – is Gutzon Borglum, who created Mount Rushmore. Gutzon and his family lived in Omaha and Fremont City. When they moved to Los Angeles, my kindred, Jessie Benton-Fremont, became his patron. She sent Gutzon to famous art schools in Europe. Gutzon did a bust of Jessie, and a portrait of John Fremont.

Charles Lummis the editor of ‘The Land of Sunshine’ and ‘Out West’ was a great promoter of Gutzon and the Fremonts. There is a good chance my grandfather, Royal Rosamond, knew Lummis because he published his poems and stories in Out West..

In 1970, I went with Rena Easton to the art department at the University of Nebraska where she unveiled a life-size clay sculpture of her boyfriend. I later did two paintings of Rena Christensen. One of them inspired my sister to take up art, and she became the world famous artist, Christine Rosamond Presco. She later married Garth Benton, the cousin of the famous artist, Thomas Hart Benton, the grandson of Senator Thomas Hart Benton, the father of Jessie Benton, and father-in-law of John Fremont, the first presidential candidate of the Republican Party.

Royal was bid to write by the artists, Jack and Fanny Cory. Fanny did covers for the Saturday Evening Posts, as did Philip Boileau, the son of Susan Benton who had a salon in Paris and may have sponsored Gutzon in France.

Christine and Garth were introduced by Lawrence Chazen, a partner of Rosamond in her first Carmel Gallery, and business partner of the Getty and Pelosi family. Nancy Pelosi’s husband and Chazen are top financial advisors for the Getty family who at one time owned the largest art collections in the world. Chazen is a CEO of Nobel Oil, and was my father’s private lender in his loan business.

If Rena and I had not mended the rent in our relationship at the University of Nebraska Museum, then Christine would not have become famous and married into the creative Benton family, because, I would not have captured her beauty on canvas. I am the Benton and Rosamond family historian.

Jon Presco

Copyright 2013

The largest high relief sculpture in the world, the Confederate Memorial Carving, depicts three Confederate figures of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. The entire carved surface measures three-acres, larger than a football field and Mount Rushmore. The carving of the three men towers 400 feet above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet, and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain. The deepest point of the carving is at Lee’s elbow, which is 12 feet to the mountain’s surface.

In 1912 the carving existed only in the imagination of Mrs. C. Helen Plane, charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). The Venable family, owners of the mountain, deeded the north face of the mountain to the UDC in 1916. The UDC was given 12 years to complete a sizable Civil War monument.

Three sculptors worked on the carving during its creation. Gutzon Borglum was hired in 1915 as the carving consultant, and in 1916 he was appointed carving sculptor by the Stone Mountain Monumental Association. Borglum envisioned a carving with seven central figures accompanied by “an army of thousands.” He was not able to begin work on the carving until 1923 due to funding problems and World War I.

After blasting away large portions of the mountain with dynamite, Borglum was able to complete the head of Lee on January 19, 1924. In 1925 a dispute arose between Borglum and the managing association. As a result of the conflict, Borglum left, taking all of his sketches and models with him. Borglum went on to carve the famous Mount Rushmore sculpture in South Dakota.

Augustus Lukeman, the second sculptor, resumed work on the project in 1925. Lukeman’s carving included the three central figures of the Confederacy on horseback. He removed Borglum’s work from the mountain and diligently worked with pneumatic drills, but by 1928 (the original deadline) only Lee’s head was complete and funds were depleted. The Venable family reclaimed their property, and the massive granite mountain remained untouched for 36 years.

In 1958 the state of Georgia purchased the mountain and the surrounding land. The Georgia General Assembly created the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. In 1960 the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Advisory Committee was comprised of six internationally known figures in the world of art. A competition was held, and nine world-renowned sculptors submitted designs for a new sculpture.

In 1963, based upon recommendations by the Advisory Committee, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association chose Walker Kirkland Hancock of Gloucester, Massachusetts to complete the carving. Work resumed in 1964, and a new technique utilizing thermo-jet torches was used to carve away the granite. Chief carver Roy Faulkner, a marine veteran with a talent for using the new thermo-jet torch, was able to remove tons of stone in one day. For over eight years Park guests could see and hear the workmen and their jet torches.

The figures were completed with the detail of a fine painting. Eyebrows, fingers, buckles and even strands of hair were fine-carved with a small thermo-jet torch.

The carving is actually much larger than it appears from Stone Mountain Park’s attractions. Workers could easily stand on a horse’s ear or inside a horse’s mouth to escape a sudden rain shower. A dedication ceremony for the Confederate Memorial Carving was held on May 9, 1970. Finishing touches to the masterpiece were completed in 1972.

The carving was conceived by Mrs. C. Helen Plane,[8] a charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). The Venable Brothers, owners of the mountain, deeded the north face of the mountain to the UDC in 1916. The UDC was given 12 years to complete a sizable Civil War monument. Gutzon Borglum was commissioned to do the carving. Borglum abandoned the project in 1925 (and later went on to begin Mount Rushmore). The US Mint issued a 1925 Commemorative silver US half dollar, along with the words “Stone Mountain” as part of a fundraiser for the monument.[9] American sculptor Augustus Lukeman continued until 1928, when further work stopped for thirty years. In 1958, at the urging of Governor Marvin Griffin, the Georgia legislature approved a measure to purchase Stone Mountain for $1,125,000. In 1963, Walker Hancock was selected to complete the carving, and work began in 1964.

After the Charleston church shooting in the summer of 2015, Stone Mountain was the subject of a political debate related to the removal of symbols of the Confederacy.[18] This controversy was stimulated by a movement in other states to remove the Confederate battle flag and statues of Confederate leaders from public areas. (See Removal of Confederate monuments and memorials.)

A proposal was made to remove the Confederate carving from Stone Mountain Park.[19] However, according to Georgia state law, no one is allowed to alter the figures carved upon the stone face. Any changes within the state park would require approval by the state legislature.[20]

On October 11, 2015, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the park is considering a proposal of a permanent “Freedom Bell” honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and the line “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia” as part of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech of 1963.[21] The proposed monument is inspired by a bell-ringing ceremony held in 2013 honoring the 50th anniversary of King’s speech.

In August 2017, after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia (a white nationalist protest against the removal of a Confederate monument) turned violent, people across the country demanded the removal of Confederate monuments and memorials.[22][23][24] Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams called for the removal of Stone Mountain’s carving.[25]

DeKalb County’s branch of the NAACP recently released a statement about the group’s position on the status of confederate symbols and the confederate designation of Stone Mountain Park. Read the full statement below:

“Recognizing that no other nation has public memorials built to honor its traitors, the NAACP DeKalb County Branch perceives the Stone Mountain memorial to be one of this country’s many monuments to treason and to traitors. Stone Mountain Park as a memorial to the Confederate States of America is a blight on Georgia’s social and economic advancement and an insult to the descendants of Georgia’s former slaves and to the integrity of every Georgian of good will.

The NAACP DeKalb further recognizes that the State of Georgia purchased the Stone Mountain Park acreage in 1958 and later commissioned the carving of the Confederate sculpture to reclaim the South from the burgeoning civil rights movement in general and in response to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in particular. The Confederate sculpture and the Park were both initiatives to perpetuate the myth of white supremacy. Viewing the Park and its antebellum components as a memorial to the Confederate States of America should fill one with shame, rather than with honor or pride.

Due to the regressive mindset of many Georgians who wish to maintain the status quo or even to go back into the past (neither of which can ever happen) and due to the enormous cost of removing the Confederate-related carving from the north face of the mountain, the NAACP DeKalb does not presently advocate for the carving to be removed. However, until such time as more courage and more progressive ideals are in the hearts of members of the Georgia General Assembly and in the hearts of Georgians who are blinded by fear, racism, and false pride, the DeKalb NAACP does advocate for the following changes at Stone Mountain Park:

Cease all reference to Stone Mountain Park as a memorial to the Confederacy;

Modify the Historic Square, so that it does not refer to a plantation;

Remove all antebellum references and symbols at the Park;

Change the names of all the streets named for Confederates;

The NAACP DeKalb recognizes that the above changes will require the Georgia General Assembly to change the statutes which now protect Georgia’s Confederate monuments. The financial cost to make the above changes, however, is nominal, and the changes require only the will and the courage.”

The son of Danish immigrants, Gutzon Borglum was born in 1867 in St. Charles in what was then Idaho Territory. Borglum was a child of Mormon polygamy. His father, Jens Møller Haugaard Børglum (1839–1909), had two wives when he lived in Idaho: Gutzon’s mother, Christina Mikkelsen Borglum (1847–1871) and Gutzon’s mother’s sister Ida, who was Jens’s first wife.[6] Jens Borglum decided to leave Mormonism and moved to Omaha, Nebraska where polygamy was both illegal and taboo.[7] Jens Borglum worked mainly as a woodcarver before leaving Idaho to attend the Saint Louis Homeopathic Medical College[8] in Saint Louis, Missouri. At that point “Jens and Christina divorced, the family left the Mormon church, and Jens, Ida, their children, and Christina’s two sons, Gutzon and Solon, moved to St. Louis, where Jens earned a medical degree. (Jens) then moved the family to Nebraska, where he became a county doctor”.[9][10] Upon his graduation from the Missouri Medical College in 1874, Dr. Borglum moved the family[9] to Fremont, Nebraska, where he established a medical practice. Gutzon Borglum remained in Fremont until 1882, when his father enrolled him in St. Mary’s College, Kansas.[11]

After a brief stint at Saint Mary’s College, Gutzon Borglum relocated to Omaha, Nebraska, where he apprenticed in a machine shop and graduated from Creighton Preparatory School.

Borglum was initially involved in the carving of Stone Mountain in Georgia. Borglum’s nativist stances made him seem an ideologically sympathetic choice to carve a memorial to heroes of the Confederacy, planned for Stone Mountain, Georgia. In 1915, he was approached by the United Daughters of the Confederacy with a project for sculpting a 20-foot (6 m) high bust of General Robert E. Lee on the mountain’s 800-foot (240 m) rockface. Borglum accepted, but told the committee, “Ladies, a twenty foot head of Lee on that mountainside would look like a postage stamp on a barn door.'”[41]

Borglum’s ideas eventually evolved into a high-relief frieze of Lee, Jefferson Davis, and ‘Stonewall’ Jackson riding around the mountain, followed by a legion of artillery troops. Borglum agreed to include a Ku Klux Klan altar in his plans for the memorial to acknowledge a request of Helen Plane in 1915, who wrote to him: “I feel it is due to the KKK that saved us from Negro domination and carpetbag rule, that it be immortalized on Stone Mountain”.[38]

After a delay caused by World War I, Borglum and the newly chartered Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association set to work on this unexampled monument, the size of which had never been attempted before. Many difficulties slowed progress, some because of the sheer scale involved. After finishing the detailed model of the carving, Borglum was unable to trace the figures onto the massive area on which he was working, until he developed a gigantic magic lantern to project the image onto the side of the mountain.

Carving officially began on June 23, 1923, with Borglum making the first cut. At Stone Mountain he developed sympathetic connections with the reorganized Ku Klux Klan, who were major financial backers for the monument. Lee’s head was unveiled on Lee’s birthday January 19, 1924, to a large crowd, but soon thereafter Borglum was increasingly at odds with the officials of the organization. His domineering, perfectionist, authoritarian manner brought tensions to such a point that in March 1925 Borglum smashed his clay and plaster models. He left Georgia permanently, his tenure with the organization over. None of his work remains, as it was all cleared from the mountain’s face for the work of Borglum’s replacement Henry Augustus Lukeman. In his abortive attempt however, Borglum had developed the necessary techniques for sculpting on a gigantic scale that made Mount Rushmore possible.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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1 Response to My ‘Monumental’ Musical

  1. Reblogged this on Rosamond Press and commented:

    A couple of months ago I discovered I am kin to General Robert E. Lee. via a DNA test. We look alike. The Rosamond Genealogist has helped keep this connection, a secret. There is no bragging – why? I Am Kin To Robert E. Lee
    Posted on December 26, 2018
    by Royal Rosamond Press

    Robert descends from the Lees of Hartwell House.
    John Presco
    Thomas Lee, of Hartwell, Bart., K.B. MP
    1695 (60)
    Hartwell, Northamptonshire, England
    Immediate Family:
    Son of Thomas Lee, of Hartwell and Elizabeth Ingoldsby
    Husband of Anne Lee
    Father of Elizabeth Beke; Jane Lee and Sir Thomas Lee, 2nd Baronet
    Half brother of Jane Ingoldsby and Richard Ingoldsby
    Added by:
    Kevin Brees on September 10, 2008
    Managed by:
    Jimmy Dale Rosamond and 5 others
    Curated by:
    Erica Howton

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