Letter to the Editor:Tell the Federal Government Not to Chisel Rushmore’s Italian American Carver Out of Credit Any Longer


We recently celebrated the birthday of our country, which has flourished for 239 years, in part, because of the contributions of immigrants.

Italian immigrants, for example.

Men and women such as Enrico Fermi, Frances Cabrini and Arturo Toscanini, to name but a few.

An immigrant from the Italian Province of Pordenone — an obscure sculptor named Luigi Del Bianco, who was the chief carver of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial from 1933 – 1940 — should be added to that list.

Never heard of Del Bianco? You’re not alone.

That’s because the United States Department of the Interior’s National Park Service (NPS) refuses to acknowledge him as the monument’s chief carver.

Which is a head scratcher because Rushmore sculptor and designer Gutzon Borglum, in a July 30, 1935 letter that you can find in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, clearly refers to Del Bianco as the chief carver.

An NPS official, Maureen McGee-Ballinger, admitted in the New York Daily News last October that she has seen and read this letter, but nonetheless refuses to call Del Bianco the chief carver.

If Gutzon Borglum himself calls Del Bianco the chief carver in his own correspondence, why isn’t that good enough for the federal government?

At the 2007, 2008 and 2009 naturalization ceremonies that are held at Mount Rushmore every year, even the Im mediate Past President of the Mount Rushmore Society, Ruth Samuelsen, referred to Del Bianco as the chief carver, and challenged all the new citizens to figuratively reach the heights he had attained in his professional career.

Del Bianco’s relatives and others such as myself have been attempting for the past 35 years to get the credit for Del Bianco that he wasn’t accorded in life. But still the NPS is intransigent.

For an agency that allegedly practices multiculturalism and pluralism, this obstinance to do the right thing is unfathomable.

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 of America won’t even posthumously recognize his artistic achievements.

There are 10,000 individuals in Somerville, Massachusetts — approximately 13 percent of the city’s total population of 78,000 — who identify as Italian Americans; overall, the Bay State has 915,000 individuals of Italian descent. Imagine how each of them would swell with pride if the federal government at long last remedied this slight.

What can you do? United States Representative Mike Capuano, who represents Somerville, as well as Chelsea, Everett, Randolph, Cambridge, Milton and approximately 70 percent of Boston in the United States House of Representatives, and whose father was the first Italian American to serve on the Somerville Board of Aldermen, is a member of the Italian American Congressional Delegation. He could play a pivotal role in getting Del Bianco the recognition he is long overdue. Contact his office and let him know how you feel.

After all, if being chief carver at what is arguably this nation’s most iconic landmark isn’t the realization of the American dream for an immigrant to these shores, what is?

Douglas J. Gladstone is the author of Carving a Niche for Himself; The Untold Story of Luigi Del Bianco and Mount Rushmore (Bordighera Press, 2014). The book is sold by Small Press Distribution, of Berkeley, California.

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