Rushmore Project

In 2000, Uncle Ted and I went on a trek to Alaska. One of our stops was Mt. Rushmore. I expected to appreciate the grandeur of the monument much as I had also appreciated the technical skill and spectacle of Stone Mountain in GA. I also expected to view smugly the patriotic hype of the gift shops that would inevitably be there. I was not prepared to be deeply moved or to feel a renewed interest in my native country.

Yes, I was awed by the technical skill and accomplishment. But I was also inspired to learn more about the four presidents memorialized on this mountain. I set for myself a goal of reading a biography of each of the Rushmore presidents. As I read about Roosevelt and Washington, I realized that there was much that I had either never known or had forgotten about American history, and I thought that it might be interesting and enlightening to read American history through biographies of its presidents.

Phase I of the project is to read biographies of the four Rushmore presidents. Phase II will be to read biographies of the rest of our presidents.


Phase I: The Rushmore Presidents

  • George Washington: His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis, 2005
  • Thomas Jefferson: American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph Ellis, 1998
  • Abraham Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years by Carl Sandburg, one volume edition, orig. 1926/1939.
  • Theodore Roosevelt: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris, 1979.
    Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris, 2001
    Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris, 2010

Phase II: The Other Presidents

  • John Adams: John Adams by David McCullough, 2008.
  • James Madison
  • James Monroe
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Martin VanBuren
  • William Henry Harrison
  • John Tyler
  • James Knox Polk
  • Zachary Taylor
  • Millard Fillmore: Millard Fillmore by Paul Finkelman, 2011. Part of “The American Presidents” series edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Sean Wilentz.
  • Franklin Pierce
  • James Buchanan
  • Andrew Johnson
  • Ulysses Simpson Grant: Personal Memoirs by U.S. Grant, 1885
  • Rutherford Birchard Hayes
  • James Abram Garfield: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of the President by Candice Millard
  • Chester Alan Arthur
  • Grover Cleveland: A Secret Life: The Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland by Charles Lachman
  • Benjamin Harrison
  • Grover Cleveland
  • William McKinley
  • William Howard Taft
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Warren Gamaliel Harding
  • Calvin Coolidge
  • Herbert Clark Hoover
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Harry S Truman
  • Dwight David Eisenhower
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson
  • Richard Milhous Nixon
  • Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr
  • James Earl Carter
  • Ronald Wilson Reagan
  • George Herbert Walker Bush
  • William Jefferson Clinton
  • George W. Bush
  • Barack Obama

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