Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor and designer of Mount Rushmore, chose the four presidents in the sculpture because of their actions and what they represented for the country. He also felt that presidents would be the best way to attract tourists to the area.
Doane Robinson had the idea for Mount Rushmore, but he wanted the monument to have sculptures of Western heroes. When Borglum was chosen as sculptor, he demanded to sculpt the presidents instead. He wanted such a significant work to have subjects who would always be relevant.
Borglum chose George Washington because Washington was the country's first president and one of its most recognized. Washington also represented the birth of the nation. Borglum chose Abraham Lincoln to represent the preservation of the United States through difficult times, such as the Civil War and slavery. He also chose Lincoln because, like Washington, he was one of the most recognized presidents.
Borglum chose Thomas Jefferson to represent the growth of the nation, as the United States almost doubled in size after Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase. President Calvin Coolidge suggested Theodore Roosevelt, who became the final president chosen. Coolidge felt that the monument should have two Republicans and at least one Democrat, and he thought Roosevelt was a worthy choice because of his work for national parks.