An Italian immigrant named Luigi Del Bianco is being denied credit by the federal government for having worked as the chief carver of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial from 1933 through 1940.
Del Bianco, who died on January 20, 1969 of accelerated silicosis, which he got from never having worn a mask while working at the monument, was an immigrant from the Italian Province of Pordenone who was tasked with giving the four presidential faces their “refinement of expression” by no less than Rushmore sculptor and designer Gutzon Borglum.
Borglum’s 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 him as the chief carver.
But that’s not enough to satisfy the folks at the National Parks Service (NPS), which is a branch of the United States Department of the Interior.
“I have seen the letter in which Borglum refers to Del Bianco as chief carver,” Maureen McGee Ballinger, of the NPS, reportedly said recently. “But I consider Gutzon Borglum the chief carver.”
Del Bianco? He was just one of the workers under Borglum, says the NPS.
The policy of the Parks Service is that all 400 individuals who worked at the monument from 1927 through 1941 receive the same credit, irrespective of their jobs. While that’s very egalitarian, it also presupposes that the man who ran the elevator lift was as important as Del Bianco.
The Parks Service is clearly dropping the ball here. 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 recognize only Borglum for his work at the monument
Listen, nobody is asking anyone to forget Gutzon Borglum. Without him, there would be no Mount Rushmore. But the Park Service doesn’t have any formal rules or regulations in place about the monument. This isn’t the Internal Revenue Service, which has tax codes aplenty. Ballinger is making a completely arbitrary and capricious decision as to the reason the agency is not recognizing Del Bianco as the chief carver.
In my opinion, there simply is no legitimate reason not to give Del Bianco the credit he so richly deserves.
Douglas J. Gladstone is a magazine writer and author from Wilton. His book “Carving a Niche for Himself; The Untold Story of Luigi Del Bianco and Mount Rushmore”, was published by Bordighera Press.
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