Pictorial Timeline

Korczak and Ruth prepared 3 books of comprehensive measurements to guide the continuation of the Mountain Carving in the event of Sculptor Korczak’s death. That day arrived in 1982 when Korczak passed away at the age of 74. After Korczak’s passing, Ruth served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.

Public sentiment was skeptical that the Crazy Horse dream could continue without Korczak. Armed with the detailed books she prepared with her husband; Ruth took the reins and directed Crazy Horse Memorial into a new era.

April 30, 1939

Study of an Immortal

Boston-born sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski works briefly as assistant to Gutzon Borglum carving Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills. Later that year, he wins first prize for sculpture at the New York World's Fair with his marble portrait, Paderewski: Study of an Immortal.

Paderewski Sculpture and Korczak

November 7, 1939

The Letter

Learning of Korczak's success at the New York World's Fair, Chief Henry Standing Bear writes a letter asking for Korczak's assistance in building a monument for Native Americans.

Chief Henry Standing Bears letter to Korczak

May 30, 1940

The Meeting

Korczak visits Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to meet Chief Henry Standing Bear. He learns about Crazy Horse and makes a clay model (with right arm outstretched).

Korczak standing with Chief Henry Standing Bear

January 1, 1941

Noah Webster

Korczak sculpts 12.5-foot-tall Noah Webster statue as a gift to West Hartford, Conn. Ruth Ross is among student volunteers helping with the project. The sculptor studies extensively about Crazy Horse and Native American culture.

Korczak sculpting Noah Webster statue

January 10, 1943

Called to War

Korczak volunteers, at age 34, for service in WWII. At war's end, the sculptor decides to accept the invitation of American Indian elders and turns down government commission to create war memorials in Europe.

Korczak with bicycle

May 30, 1946


The elders insist Crazy Horse be carved in their sacred Black Hills. Standing Bear and Korczak locate the 600-foot-high Thunderhead Mountain. Korczak uses his own money to buy privately-owned land nearby. From stone off the Noah Webster Statue, Korczak sculpts the Tennessee marble Crazy Horse scale model.

Korczak with Crazy Horse Memorial Model

May 3, 1947

The Move

Korczak arrives at Crazy Horse on May 3 at age 38.He then lives in a tent while building log-studio home. Korczak decides to carve the entire 563-foot Mountain rather than just the top 100 feet as first planned. Ruth Ross is among volunteers arriving on June 21st.

Korczak standing next to his tent

June 3, 1948

First Blast

The Memorial is dedicated June 3, 1948 with the first blast on the Mountain. Special guests include five of the nine survivors of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Korczak promises Crazy Horse will be a nonprofit educational and cultural humanitarian project financed by the interested public and not with government tax money. He pledges never to take a salary at Crazy Horse. Korczak single-jacks four holes for the first blast, which takes off 10 tons.

1948 image of the mountain

January 1, 1949

Old Buda

Work begins on the Mountain with a horizontal cut under the Horse's Mane. The Sculptor works alone with one small jackhammer powered by a gas compressor ("Old Buda") at the bottom of the Mountain.

Korczak with gas compressor jackhammer

November 23, 1950

Wedding on the Mountain

Following a second summer of work on the Mane cut, Sculptor marries Ruth Ross on Thanksgiving Day.

Korczak and Ruth on their wedding day

May 1, 1951


Korczak paints outline of Crazy Horse on the Mountain with 6 foot lines using 176 gallons of paint. Korczak and Ruth begin drafting three books of comprehensive plans and measurement for the Mountain carving.

Korczak on the mountain with rope

April 15, 1952

The Bucket

Korczak starts cut for the 90 foot tall profile of Crazy Horse's face. He uses "the bucket" aerial cable car run by an antique Chevy engine working to haul equipment and tools to the top of the Mountain.

Korczak in the aerial cable car

October 13, 1953

Goodbye, Old Friend

Sculptor continues work in front of Crazy Horse's face, blasting down to below the nose area. The first bulldozer was purchased for work on the Mountain. In the winter season, Korczak carves the nearly seven-ton Sitting Bull Monument. The "Original Dreamer" Chief Henry Standing Bear dies.

Chief Henry Standing Bear sitting

July 23, 1960

Continuing the Dream

Cut in front of the face down to the chin area is complete and work clearing rock above the outstretched arm has begun. The "Buda" compressor is moved to the top of the Mountain. Construction of the gravel Avenue of the Chiefs direct from Hwy 16-385 port of entry to studio-home. The first dozer is working on top of the Mountain.

1960 image of the mountain

August 5, 1961 - October 16, 1965


Additions to the buildings on the property are completed (sun room, workshop, roof over visitor viewing porch, a large garage and machine shop). First leveling above outstretched arm is complete, the tunnel under the arm is started and a 26-ton scaffold on tracks in front of Crazy Horse's face is built for future use.

Korczak in front of sign

January 2, 1966 - December 31, 1970


Carving on the horse's mane and in front of the rider's chest continues. The tunnel under the arm reaches daylight on the other side. The Charles Eder collection is donated to THE INDIAN MUSEUM OF NORTH AMERICA® and the U.S. Post Office opens at Crazy Horse with Ruth as the postmistress.

Ruth at the Post Office window

May 9, 1971 - November 10, 1976

Tunnel & Tombs

The tunnel under the arm continues to be enlarged. Korczak builds his tomb at the base of the Mountain. A new museum is built and dedicated in 1973 and the visitors complex is expanded. Work continues in front of the horse's head. Reader's Digest U.S. bicentennial book ranks Crazy Horse as "one of the seven wonders of the modern world."

Construction starting on the tunnel and tombs

September 6, 1977 - December 31, 1981

40,000 Ton Blast

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Crazy Horse's death and the first blast on Crazy Horse Memorial a 40,000 ton blast is conducted. The scholarship program is started with a single scholarship of $250. Work continues on blocking out the horse's head and plans for the expanded THE INDIAN MUSEUM OF NORTH AMERICA® are created.

Mountain blast

October 20, 1982

The Torch Passes

Korczak died unexpectedly at the age of 74. His wife, Ruth and all 10 of their children were with him as he was laid to rest in the tomb he and his sons built near the Mountain. He left Ruth the scale models and the three books of comprehensive plans and measurements they prepared for the carving. She and their large family expressed their dedication and determination to carry on the Crazy Horse dream according to Korczak's detailed plans. Tributes arrived from throughout the nation and many foreign countries. Korczak was eulogized as a man of "legends, dreams, visions and greatness," and Indian representatives proclaimed that "two races of people have lost a great man."

Korczak with cigar

January 1, 1983 - December 31, 1987

New Leadership

Ruth assumes the role of President and CEO of Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. Overall blocking out continues on the Mountain. The viewing deck is expanded, restaurant created and the Cultural Center building is started. Detailed measurements are made on Crazy Horse Mountain & Models to determine where the work should be focused.

Korczak and Ruth

May 1, 1988

Carving an Icon

Work begins on carving Crazy Horse's face. In five short years the forehead, eyes and most of the area under the nose has been finished.

Ruth standing with Crazy Horse Memorial face

January 1, 1989 - December 31, 1997


Work continues on the face with completion of the nose lobes, mouth, lips and cheeks are blocked out.

Workers burning stone on Crazy Horse Memorial

June 3, 1998

50th Anniversary

The face of Crazy Horse is complete! A dedication ceremony and unveiling of the face is done June 3, 1998 (50th anniversary of the Memorial's first blast).

Flag coming off of the Crazy Horse Memorial face

January 1, 1999 - December 31, 2005


Blasting begins to create 20 foot horizontal benches (access roads) to the 219 foot horse's head. The Welcome Center is expanded, along with road access to the visitor center.

Aerial shot of the entire memorial

January 1, 2006 - December 31, 2011


The work on blocking out and creating benches continues. THE INDIAN UNIVERSITY OF NORTH AMERICA®, Summer Program begins affording students the opportunity to earn their first semester of college credits at Crazy Horse Memorial®.

Ruth with a recent Indian University of North America graduate

January 1, 2012 - December 31, 2014

Finishing Crazy Horse's Hand

Many more benches are created on the Mountain and work begins on the finishing work of Crazy Horse's outstretched hand and the horse's mane. Ruth Ziolkowski "Mrs. Z", passes away. The task of continuing the Crazy Horse dream has been passed on her children and the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation's board of directors.

Photo of entire mountain carving

May 21, 2014

Beloved Mrs. Z Passes Away

Ruth Ziolkowski (1926-2014) passed away after a short battle with cancer. Her passion, persistence, vision and leadership was and will always be an inspiration to us all.

Korczak and Ruth sitting together

January 1, 2015

2015 & Beyond!

Focus has turned to finishing work on the outstretched arm and hand of Crazy Horse along with the horse's mane. A pointing boom was installed late 2014 to allow for precise measuring. Most of the work that will continue on this area of the mountain will be done by hand.

Crazy Horse Memorial pictured with the original model