A Fifth Head for Mount Rushmore? Here Are Seven Famous Contenders

Who, if anybody, deserves a place alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt on the famous monument?

Elvis could have been a hunk of granite.
Elvis could have been a hunk of granite. / ©AnitaBurke/Moment/Getty Images

In 1927, some 400 people set to work with chisels, jackhammers, and dynamite on the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, a mammoth project that would take 14 years to finish. Even before they had completed their work, Americans were proposing additional candidates to join presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt on the South Dakota mountainside. Protestations from sculptor Gutzon Borglum that there wasn’t enough room (or rock) for a fifth head weren’t enough to stop the suggestions from rolling in.

Numerous other noggins have been suggested over the years—sometimes facetiously, but often with dead seriousness. When the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Argus Leader newspaper invited readers to offer their own ideas in 1991, the diverse list included disgraced Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, President Jimmy Carter, inventor Thomas Edison, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Martin Luther King, Jr., country singer Merle Haggard, Betsy Ross, Sacagawea, and even Bart Simpson. And, of course, Mad magazine has made the case for its gap-toothed mascot Alfred E. Neuman, providing Americans with a preview of how that might look on a 1957 cover.

Here are seven prominent Americans whose heads have been put forth for consideration.

1. Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony / Library of Congress/GettyImages

As early as 1927, lifelong Susan B. Anthony advocate Rose Arnold Powell was lobbying to add the famous suffragist to Mount Rushmore’s old boys’ club. Eleanor Roosevelt also championed Anthony; bills in the U.S. House and Senate in 1936 did likewise, although they were ultimately unsuccessful. Borglum himself opposed the move, telling a newspaper reporter that the monument’s purpose was “to portray the men who founded, defended, and expanded the United States.”

While Powell and her allies weren’t able to get Anthony’s head on Mount Rushmore, they did succeed in getting her face on a postage stamp, which came out in 1936. Anthony would be honored with another stamp in 1955 and on a dollar coin, starting in 1979—making her the first woman ever to appear on a circulating coin in the U.S.

2. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower / Fox Photos/GettyImages

World War II hero and former president Dwight D. Eisenhower would have been the first bald head on Mount Rushmore had a 1960 initiative by New York Senator Kenneth Keating and Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey succeeded. Keating, a Republican, and Humphrey, a Democrat, actually proposed that two heads be added: the Republican Ike and Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. The proposal went nowhere, with newspapers joking that it was a “bust.” While that seems to have been the last time Eisenhower’s name came up for serious consideration, FDR would remain a perennial contender. 

3. John F. Kennedy

John F Kennedy
John F. Kennedy / Keystone/GettyImages

In the nationwide grief following JFK’s 1963 assassination, some Americans believed the most fitting tribute to the martyred young president would be adding him to Mount Rushmore. Nothing came of it, but a 1991 NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found that he was still the president Americans most wanted to see on the monument. In a 2014 American Legion survey that asked, “If you could select one president to be added to Mount Rushmore, who would it be?,” Kennedy came in second with 11 percent of the vote but distantly trailed the more recently deceased Ronald Reagan, who scored 42 percent. 

4. Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley on the Set of King Creole
Elvis Presley on the Set of King Creole / John Springer Collection/GettyImages

Two months before his death in 1977, Elvis Presley gave one of his last concerts at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Perhaps not surprisingly, calls to add his wavy-haired head to the nearby monument have echoed ever since—most loudly in 1991, when Los Angeles disc jockey Magic Matt Alan started a nationwide letter writing campaign. “There’s plenty of room to the right of Teddy,” he said. That same year, when Postmaster General Anthony Frank proposed a stamp honoring Presley, he noted that, “We don’t have a place where famous people can have their pictures put up except maybe Mount Rushmore. A stamp is as close to it as you can come.” 

Presley got his stamp, at least, in 1993. According to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, it became “the most popular U.S. commemorative stamp of all time.”

5. Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan / Keystone/GettyImages

Well before his death in 2004—in fact before his first term had even ended— the 40th president’s fans were suggesting that sculptors commence carving. In 1989, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., editor of the conservative magazine American Spectator, began a lighthearted campaign to make that happen, supposedly with Reagan’s own blessing. To get around the objection that there wasn’t enough granite remaining to fashion another head, he suggested creating the parts out of cement and attaching them to the mountain. One booster came up with the idea of building an ear out of discarded chunks of the Berlin Wall in tribute to Regan’s role in bringing it down. Reagan critics naturally opposed the idea and cartoonists found it a motherlode of material in it. 

6. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt / Keystone Features/GettyImages

After his sudden death in 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt—the only U.S. president ever elected to four terms—seemed a natural to join his fifth cousin, Teddy, on the monument. He also had a deep connection to the monument: He helped fund it and spoke at the dedication of Jefferson’s head in 1936. Though fewer and fewer of FDR’s contemporaries remain alive, his name still comes up high on the list whenever there’s talk of adding another head. A 2016 Expedia survey found him in first place with 29 percent of the vote.

7. Donald J. Trump

Donald Trump
Donald J. Trump / Tom Pennington/GettyImages

At least one noteworthy person has suggested putting Donald Trump’s face on Mount Rushmore. That would be Trump himself, who reportedly told then-South Dakota congresswoman and now governor Kristi Noem that it was his “dream.” The 45th president later said he was joking, but still seemed to endorse the thought, saying in a tweet that “it sounds like a good idea to me.” Just in case, he also posed for a photo in front of the monument, showing how his head might look alongside Honest Abe’s.

In the 2016 Expedia survey, which was conducted before his election, Trump wasn’t on the ballot but received 2 percent of the vote in form of write-ins, earning him a spot between Jesus Christ and Mickey Mouse.