Email to President Obama from Douglas J. Gladstone about Luigi Del Bianco

Jun 18, 2015 928

by Douglas J. Gladstone


Dear Mr. President,
I am writing you not as an author whose book the National Park Service (NPS) refuses to sell in its gift shops, but as a proponent of multiculturalism and pluralism. My book, Carving A Niche For Himself: The Untold Story of Luigi Del Bianco and Mount Rushmore (Bordighera Press, 2014) tells the true story of the obscure immigrant from the Italian Province of Pordenone who was the chief carver of what is considered to be one of the world's most renowned sculptures. That's right; the chief carver of Mount Rushmore from 1933 through 1940 was an Italian immigrant.

If you weren't aware of this, it's because the Department of the Interior refuses to recognize his work.Tasked with giving the four presidential faces their "refinement of expression" by no less than Rushmore sculptor and designer Gutzon Borglum, whose own letters in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress clearly attests to his importance, Luigi Del Bianco is specifically referred to as the chief carver in one of these letters, dated July 30, 1935. But that won't satisfy the NPS.

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

The policy of the Parks Service is that all 400 individuals who worked at the monument receive the same credit, irrespective of their jobs. While that's egalitarian, it also presupposes that the man who ran the elevator lift was as important as Del Bianco.

Del Bianco, who was a decorated marksman for Italy during World War I, became a citizen of this country in 1929. And now, the United States won't even posthumously recognize his artistic achievements.

So Mr. President, I ask you -- shouldn't you and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell be embarrassed by this?

With Italian American Heritage Month coming up in October, you have a great opportunity to remedy this slight. Imagine the 18 million Italian Americans in this country who would be puffing up their chests with pride if they knew that one of their landsmen was the chief carver on what is the most iconic landmark in this nation.

Mr. President, there is no reason to deny Del Bianco the credit he deserves. After all, if working at Mount Rushmore isn't the realization of the American dream for an immigrant to these shores, what is?

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