John Gutzon Borglum

John Gutzon Borglum is included in the Online Nevada Encyclopedia on the basis of one work: his statue of the Nevada mining magnate John William Mackay (1831-1902), which is located on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno. Borglum is better known for his sculpted likenesses of four American presidents on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Borglum is an icon of American art. Born in Idaho in 1867, the artist turned to sculpture while studying in Paris in the 1890s, a major influence being French sculptor Auguste Rodin. After Borglum's return to the United States in 1902, he created a stone bust of Abraham Lincoln that was installed in the rotunda of the United States Capitol. The sculptor's ill-fated attempt to carve a monumental relief sculpture of American Civil War general Robert E. Lee on the side of a mountain in Tennessee ended in 1925. In 1927, Borglum moved on to Mount Rushmore, and the sixty-foot high portraits in granite of presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt. Completed in 1941, Mount Rushmore continues to be one of America's favorite tourist destinations.

Sam Davis, editor of the Carson City Morning Appeal, is credited with initiating the commissioning of a statue honoring legendary Comstock miner John Mackay, a major player in the 1873 discovery of the Big Bonanza. Mackay's son Clarence lent his support to the project. After the Nevada legislature ironed out its differences over where to place Borglum's work, the statue was finally installed at the north end of the University of Nevada quadrangle in Reno, in front of the Mackay School of Mines building. It was unveiled before a crowd of several thousand on June 10, 1908.

The February 8, 1908 issue of the Carson City Daily Appeal stated, "Some time last year the Board of Capitol Commissioners passed a resolution that a bust of Governor Sparks be placed in the center of the tessellated floor of the lower rotunda. When Gutzon Borglum, who made the Mackay statue, visits here the coming June, he will begin work on modeling the head." This bust, which would have been the second Borglum sculpture in Nevada, was never completed.

Geographic Area: 

Article Locations

Further Reading

None at this time.