While the sculptor Gutzon Borglum was working on Mount Rushmore, he had the idea of adding a special room where future generations could learn about the significance of the United States as well as his own creation. The Hall of Records was intended as its own architectural wonder, accented with double doors, a long staircase, and a gold-plated eagle with a 38-foot wingspan. The inside would serve as a museum, housing bronze and glass cabinets full of the country’s key historical documents, busts of important Americans, a list of notable U.S. contributions to the world, and more. Armed with dynamite, miners laid the groundwork for the Hall of Records in 1938 — to the displeasure of Congress, who saw only a 70-foot-deep cave beyond President Lincoln’s hairline. Borglum was instructed to devote his time and federal funding to finishing the quartet of faces. Soon after he died in March 1941, the monument was deemed complete. The Hall of Records remained an empty granite pit for more than half a century.
At the behest of Borglum’s family — who worried that the sculpture’s significance “would become a riddle” to historians — the artist’s vision for the room was partly realized on August 9, 1998. A teak box was filled with 16 porcelain enamel tablets containing documents including the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address, plus details about Borglum and the forging of Mount Rushmore. The box was placed in a non-corrosive titanium container, which was lowered deep into a hole at the Hall of Records’ entrance. To seal the opening, a 1,200-pound granite capstone was added, etched with a quote from Borglum. Alas, tourists are not able to explore the hall that might have been.
Lincoln Borglum spent his young adulthood assisting his father on Mount Rushmore, ultimately overseeing the monument’s completion. To increase worker morale, on game days Lincoln parked his car close to the hoist operator and left the radio tuned to baseball; the hoist operator then phoned game updates to those stationed on the mountain. In 1938, Lincoln started recruiting amateur baseball players to work on the monument, and soon founded the Rushmore Drillers. Six days a week, practices followed the 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. work shifts, and games were played on Sundays. The team was good enough to make it to the semifinals of the State Amateur Baseball Tournament in 1939, but the Drillers disbanded when the government declared Mount Rushmore finished in 1941.