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Sketch of sculptor's Rushmore vision for sale

June 16, 2010

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D.—A letter detailing an early vision for the Mount Rushmore carving is being auctioned online this week.

A New Hampshire auction house is taking bids on a three-page letter written by Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum that includes a hand-drawn sketch of George Washington's likeness on a mountainside. The letter came to the auction house from a Florida collector.

"I was blown away," said Bobby Livingston, vice president of sales and marketing with RR Auction of Amherst, N.H. "When you turn that page over and you see that drawing, it really brings history to life."

Borglum's letter is addressed to fellow artist Jesse Gove Tucker, who worked with him on another colossal carving, Stone Mountain near Atlanta.

The letter and sketch are not dated but the auction firm estimates it was drafted in 1926. South Dakota State Historical Society Director Jay Vogt said the fact that the drawing shows only Washington suggests that it was early in the sculptor's planning process.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial also has the likenesses of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt.

Dan Brams of West Palm Beach, Fla., who has been collecting historic documents for about 25 years, said he acquired the letter in April at a book fair in New York City. Before that, he said, it was part of the James S. Copley Library at the University of San Diego.

"My thought was if the perception in the world is that it's as special as I think it is, then someone is going to step up and buy it and it's going to find a home where it ought to be," he said.

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