Why Is South Dakota Called the Mount Rushmore State?

South Dakota was once known as the "Sunshine State."
Thomas Jefferson on Mount Rushmore.
Mount Rushmore was completed in 1941.
President George Washington is carved on Mount Rushmore.
South Dakota is called the Mount Rushmore State because the national memorial is located in the state.
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  • Written By: Christian Petersen
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2014
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South Dakota, a state in the north central continental United States, is known as the Mount Rushmore State. This stems from the presence of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial near the city of Keystone in western South Dakota. This enormous memorial to four American presidents, completed in 1941, features their faces and partial busts, each 60 feet (18 m) high and carved from the granite of Mount Rushmore. Famous even before its completion in 1941, when finished, this memorial quickly became an icon of American culture and patriotism and gained the state of South Dakota much fame.

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial was commissioned and begun in 1927. Gutzon Borglum was the sculptor of this massive tribute to Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and he employed a crew of over 400 workers to transform the mountain face. When completed, the monument was dedicated as a National Memorial and was eventually placed under the supervision of the United States Department of the Interior's National Park Service.

The huge sculpture was immediately popular with the American citizenry, and the state of South Dakota quickly became known colloquially as the Mount Rushmore State. It gained in popularity as years passed. During the first year after completion in 1941, more than 300,000 people visited the site, and today, more than 2,000,000 people visit the memorial each year.


Beginning in 1909, the state of South Dakota officially adopted the nickname of the Sunshine State and a new state flag that incorporated this nickname. After the completion of Mount Rushmore, the nickname, while unofficial, quickly became the Mount Rushmore State. This transition was hastened by Florida which had also become known as the Sunshine State.

In 1983, the South Dakota legislature approved a measure officially changing the state nickname to the Mount Rushmore state, and it was quickly signed into law. While this had been the unofficial nickname for many years, it then became official. The flag however, retained the original design, which, although modified in the 1960s, still proclaimed South Dakota as the Sunshine State. In 1993, the legislature finally rectified this incongruity and changed the law describing the official state flag. From that point on, the state flag has reflected the official nickname and bears the phrase "The Mount Rushmore State."


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