WASHINGTON – For its 100th birthday, the National Park Service gave a long-awaited gift to many Italian-Americans and all unsung artists: Italian immigrant Luigi Del Bianco was finally recognized as the chief carver of South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore.
The Park Service has acknowledged on the monument’s Facebook page that Gutzon Borglum, Rushmore’s designer and chief engineer, appointed Del Bianco as the monument’s chief carver in 1935.
“If being the chief carver at Mount Rushmore is not the American dream for an immigrant to these lands, what is?” said Douglas Gladstone, author of the 2014 book, “Carving a Niche for Himself: The Untold Story of Luigi Del Bianco.”
Del Bianco’s grandson Lou Del Bianco had been trying for years, along with his late uncle, Caesar, to get recognition for his grandfather. When Cameron Sholly assumed the position of National Park Service director for the Midwest region, he reassessed the request.
After corresponding with Lou Del Bianco and reviewing research by Park Service historians, Sholly was convinced of Luigi Del Bianco’s position as chief carver.
“He is worth any three men I could find in America, for this particular type of work,” Borglum wrote of Del Bianco in documents that Lou and Caesar Del Bianco discovered at the Library of Congress. “He is the only intelligent, efficient stone carver on the work who understands the language of the sculptor.”
Del Bianco immigrated to Vermont in 1908 but returned to Italy to fight for his native country in World War I. He then returned to Vermont in 1920.
Del Bianco and Borglum worked together briefly on the Confederate Memorial on Stone Mountain in Georgia and on the Wars of America Memorial in Newark, N.J. (Del Bianco was a model for a number of the figures.)
In 1933, he was recruited to work on Mount Rushmore, where he made $72 a week.
Hundreds of workers finished sculpting the faces of four American presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln) into Rushmore’s southeast granite slope in the Black Hills 75 years ago. They toiled under the direction of Borglum and his son Lincoln, their names listed at the monument as part of a team effort.
new york times, CQ-Roll Call