Crazy Horse Memorial: 1950-1955
Crazy Horse Memorial: 1950-1955
The years immediately following the marriage of Korczak and Ruth Ziolkowski were spent with the couple working to establish various means by which to earn a living and the sculptor working to hone his artistic skill and advance the mountain carving.
As no funding had been in place for work on the mountain and as Korczak never drew a salary during his many years working on the mountain, there existed great financial hardship during this time. Accordingly, there was an urgent need to create a living for him and his new wife. As the result of a collective strong will and a shared work ethic, the couple made their living by their own hand – through ventures such as a newly established dairy farm and a lumber mill. Korczak designed and built a modern milking parlor for a Holstein dairy farm – at the time one of the most modern in a five state area. The sculptor and Ruth built the dairy farm together, literally from the ground up – brick by brick. The couple also worked together to build a large lumber mill that helped feed and clothe the couple, as well as provide a continuous source of lumber for the ever-growing visitor complex. And while Korczak and Ruth worked hard to make a living, the sculptor also continued to work on individual carving projects when he could not work on the mountain due to weather.
Always a student of history, Korczak found inspiration in Black Hills’ history – in both Native figures, as well as non-Native figures. During the winter of 1951, Korczak carved a 3000 pound Wild Bill Hickok statue from Crazy Horse granite as gift for Deadwood, South Dakota. Also, between 1953 and 1955, the sculptor carved from Crazy Horse granite a nearly seven-ton Sitting Bull Monument. And while he found inspiration in individual projects when he could not work on the mountain, the mountain carving always remained the greatest source of inspiration and the primary focus of his efforts.
Between 1951and 1955, during the summers, Korczak continued to work alone on the mountain. Working every day from dusk until dawn, he painted the outline of Crazy Horse on the mountain. The six foot wide lines took 174 gallons of paint to complete. During this same time, Korczak and Ruth begin drafting three books of comprehensive plans and measurements for the carving, and he worked daily to begin the time and labor-intensive process of blasting out the rough outline of Crazy Horse’s nearly 90-foot –high head. In 1952, Korczak devised, built, and began to use what he deemed “the bucket” — an ingenious aerial cable car run by an antique Chevy engine that allowed the sculptor to haul equipment and tools to top of the horse’s head. That winter, Korczak carved two more scale models of the Memorial — a 1/24th scale model of Crazy Horse’s head from a 48-inch diameter pine tree and a 1/1200th Crazy Horse scale model (5-inch miniature) from lemon wood.
In the span between 1953 through 1955, the sculptor continued to work in front of Crazy Horse’s face, blasting down to below the nose area. And while during this time the sculptor turned down $10 million dollars in potential federal funding, through their own hard work and planning, the sculptor and Ruth were able to purchase the first bulldozer to be used on the mountain. It was also during this time that Korczak suffered a back injury when a cable on “the bucket” snapped. Unfortunately, also during this time, Korczak’s injury and the financial hardship that faced the sculptor and his wife were not the only potential setback that the project experienced. In 1953, Korczak and Ruth’s friend and original dreamer, Chief Henry Standing Bear passed away – signaling the end of one significant chapter and the beginning of another in the history of Crazy Horse Memorial . . .
This article is the eleventh installment of a periodic chronology that will be published by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation on the history of the Memorial.
By: Dr. Jason Murray for the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation
©Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation