Crusading Author To Speak At Poughkeepsie's Italian Center About Rushmore's Italian American Chief Carver Denied Credit By the Feds

Mar 13, 2016 1154

Author Douglas J. Gladstone, whose controversial book argues that the United States Department of the Interior's National Park Service (NPS) is chiseling Mount Rushmore's Italian American chief carver out of posthumous credit, will talk about the issue before members of Noi Italiani D'Oggi (NIDO) at the Italian Center four weeks from tonight, on Thursday, April 7, at 7 P.M.

Gladstone, whose book, Carving a Niche for Himself; The Untold Story of Luigi Del Bianco and Mount Rushmore, was published by Bordighera Press in 2014, has spoken to the Midwestern Regional Director of the Park Service about the matter, and even enlisted the aid of The Order of the Sons of Italy's National Commission on Social Justice to remedy the situation.

The NPS has long maintained that Rushmore designer and sculptor Gutzon Borglum is the only person who should be singled out for credit for having worked at what is arguably the most iconic landmark in this country, and that the rest of the 400 day laborers who worked as blasters, pointers, drillers, etc. should be lumped together as one group.

"And while that's very egalitarian," says Gladstone, "it means that Borglum's stenographer, the late Ellen Catherine Kirk, and the late Edwald Hayes, who was the hoist engineer – the man who ran the elevator lift -- are receiving the same credit as Del Bianco, and I don't believe either of them risked their lives sitting in a bosun's chair 600 feet high up in the air."

Del Bianco has been consistently left out of most major books about the memorial, including the late Rex Allen Smith's The Carving of Mount Rushmore, which is widely considered the definitive take on the project's engineering and carving dynamics. The Smith book was the primary source material used in a 2002 Public Broadcasting System (PBS) documentary about the memorial, and that PBS documentary doesn't mention Del Bianco either.

An Italian immigrant from the Province of Pordenone, Del Bianco was tasked with giving the four presidential faces their "refinement of expression" by Borglum, whose own letters in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress clearly attests to Del Bianco's importance.

In one of these letters, dated July 30, 1935, Borglum specifically refers to Del Bianco as the chief carver.

But that's not enough to satisfy the folks at the NPS.

"I have seen the letter in which Borglum refers to Del Bianco as chief carver," Maureen McGee Ballinger, of the NPS, told columnist Denis Hamill of the New York Daily News in October 2014. But I consider Gutzon Borglum the chief carver."

"The Parks Service is clearly dropping the ball here," added Gladstone. "They could be telling this great narrative about an Italian American immigrant who in 1929 became a citizen of this country who was the chief carver on what is arguably the most iconic landmark in this country. Instead, the Park Service continues to chisel him out of credit for his work at the monument."

Noting that Italians are the fourth largest European group in this country, Gladstone said that "there are 18 million Italian Americans in this country, including the 2.7 million in New York State, who would puff up their chests with pride if they found out that one of their own had served as the chief carver on this world famous sculpture.

"After all," he concluded, "if working at Mount Rushmore isn't the realization of the American dream for an immigrant to these shores, what is?" Mount Rushmore will celebrate its 75th anniversary on October 31, 2016.

Italian Americans comprise 22 percent of Dutchess County's population of 296,500, according to U.S. Census data. Including people who listed more than one ancestry, a reported 60,645 of the county's residents are of Italian descent.

For more information about the event, please contact NIDO's Rosemary Calista at 845-471-0313. The Italian Center is located at 227 Mill Street in Poughkeepsie. Media interested in speaking with Gladstone can contact him at 518-817-8253. Carving a Niche for Himself may be ordered directly from the Bordighera Press website.

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