Stone Mountain collection, 1915-1977

Emory University

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322


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Descriptive Summary

Title: Stone Mountain collection, 1915-1977
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 95
Extent: 10.75 linear ft. (23 boxes), 2 oversized papers boxes and 1 oversized papers folder (OP), 7 extraoversized papers (XOP), 5 bound volumes (BV), 3 oversized bound volumes (OBV), and AV Masters: .25 linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:Collection of materials about Stone Mountain and the Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association, including correspondence, minutes, financial records, legal documents, printed material, photographs, maps and blueprints, and memorabilia.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply: Use copies have not been made for audiovisual material in this collection. Researchers must contact MARBL at least two weeks in advance for access to these items. Collection restrictions, copyright limitations, or technical complications may hinder MARBL's ability to provide access to audiovisual material.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Related Materials in Other Repositories

Stone Mountain Monumental Association records, Georgia Department of Archives and History and Gutzon Borglum papers, Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

Related Materials in This Repository

Emory University also holds a number of pamphlets and broadsides relating to the Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association. These materials may be located in the Emory University online catalog by searching for: Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association.


Gift and purchase.


[after identification of item(s)], Stone Mountain collection, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.


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Collection Description

Historical Note

Stone Mountain is an elliptical, 683-foot high granite dome near Atlanta, Georgia, believed to be the product of volcanic activity. The first European to view Stone Mountain was probably Captain Juan Pardo, a Spanish explorer who came to Georgia in 1567. It came to be known as Crystal Mountain because it was supposedly studded with precious gems. The mountain, also known as Rock Mountain, was purchased by the United States from the Creek Indians in the 1820's and was used by its owners as a granite quarry and tourist attraction. During the 1880's it was purchased by Samuel Hoyt Venable (1856- ) and his brother, William Hoyt Venable.

In May 1914, William H. Terrell, Atlanta attorney, suggested in an Atlanta Constitution editorial that Stone Mountain be used as a memorial to the Confederacy. Two days later, Caroline Helen Jemison Plane (1829-1925), founder of the Georgia Division and Atlanta Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), proposed that the UDC erect such a monument. Mrs. Plane obtained the support of Samuel Venable and invited sculptor John de la Mothe Gutzon Borglum (1871-1941) to carve a monument on the mountain. Borglum accepted the commission and Venable deeded one face of the mountain to the Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association (SMCMA; incorporated April 1916) in May 1916.

From 1916 to 1923, due primarily to economic constrictions imposed by World War I, little progress was made. At the 1923 annual meeting of the SMCMA, a group of Atlanta business and civic leaders was elected to the executive committee. Carving on the mountain began soon after the meeting. The executive committee, chaired by Hollins Nicholas Randolph (1872-1938), an Atlanta attorney, was primarily absorbed with meeting the Association's financial obligations. Funds began to accumulate, debts were paid, and the head of General Robert E. Lee was unveiled on January 19, 1924 in an impressive ceremony.

Controversies arose shortly after this unveiling. Venable complained about Secretary David Webb's salary. Misunderstandings between Borglum and the executive committee over the production of Children's Founders Roll medals increased friction. In December 1924, Borglum threatened to suspend the work unless the Association paid past debts due him of some $40,000 within forty-eight hours. The sculptor agreed at a committee meeting to continue carving and submit his complaints to arbitration. Relations between the executive committee and Borglum dissolved, however, when the latter suggested in a news conference in February 1925 that a national committee be formed to take over the memorial project. On February 25, Borglum's contract was cancelled. Following the announcement of his dismissal, Borglum drove to his studio, destroyed his models, and left the state. The Association at first pressed charges against him but these were later dropped.

The Association immediately undertook to find a replacement. On April 16, 1925, Augustus Lukeman (1871-1935), a Virginia sculptor, was hired. Lukeman discarded Borglum's design, constructed his own models, and began work on the carving in early 1927. Borglum's work was blasted from the mountain and Lukeman's head of General Lee was unveiled in April 1928. Shortly after this unveiling, the work ceased due to the Association's lack of money. Meanwhile, Borglum, Venable, and others showered criticism on the Association for its mishandling of public funds and on Lukeman for his lack of artistic ability. After 1928 various plans were considered to recommission Borglum, but none were successful.

Lukeman's partial carving remained untouched until the early 1960's, though during the 1940's and 1950's, a number of proposals to complete the monument had been put forward. In 1958, the Georgia Legislature set up the Stone Mountain Memorial Association (SMMA) and gave it authority to purchase the mountain and surrounding areas for a state park. In 1963, Walker Kirtland Hancock (1901- ) was hired to complete Lukeman's design and on May 9, 1970 the completed carving was unveiled.

Biographical Source: For further historical and geological information about Stone Mountain, see Robert Harllee, Custodians of Imperishable Glory (Emory University, 1980, Master's Thesis E11.5/H3675), Willard Neal, Georgia's Stone Mountain and The Story of Stone Mountain (Stone Mountain Collection, Box 26, folders 8 and 19), Poole Maynard, How Stone Mountain Was Created (Stone Mountain Collection, Box 26, folder 10), and Gerald Johnson, The Undefeated (N.Y.: Minton, Balch, & Co., 1927; E641/S8J6).

Scope and Content Note

The Stone Mountain collection contains materials created between 1915 and 1977, the bulk of which date from the period 1915-1930. Correspondence, minutes, financial records, legal documents, printed material, photographs, maps and blueprints, and memorabilia are included. These records document fully the early history of the memorial, from C. Helen Plane's proposal to the UDC (1915, through the Borglum years (1915-1925), and to the work of Augustus Lukeman (I925-I928). The completion of the monument by Walker Hancock in the 1960's is documented only by clippings and printed materials.

This collection is divided into six series according to the origin of the material. Series 1, the papers of the Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association (SMCMA), 1915-1930, is divided into ten subseries according to type of material. Correspondence, minutes and reports, financial and legal records, printed materials and photographs are included. This series documents the various administrative functions of the Association, including fund-raising, personnel, and publicity, and provides documentation of the progress of the carving during the Borglum and Lukeman eras. The bulk of Series 1 was transferred to Emory directly from the SMCMA's office files in the 1930's, and a number of additions were made between 1960 and 1983. Item index cards in the manuscript catalog, prepared at the time of the first accession and labeled "Stone Mountain Correspondence," refer to this series.

Records created by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his wife, Mary, 1916-1954, are found in Series 2. Correspondence, legal and financial records, and printed materials constitute the bulk of this series. Borglum's early interest in and impressions of the Stone Mountain Memorial, his conflicts with the SMCMA, his dismissal, and his efforts to return to the mountain are documented here. His work on Mount Rushmore is a minor theme of the series.

Materials created by Samuel Hoyt Venable, Atlanta businessman and part owner of Stone Mountain, and his sister, Elizabeth Venable Mason, are found in Series 2. This series contains correspondence, copies of public statements, and legal and financial records which document the Venables' feud with the SMCMA and their efforts to arrange for Borglum to complete the Stone Mountain Memorial.

Prior to June 1983, Series 4, the Caroline Helen Plane Papers, 1915-1925, was a separate collection held by this department. These papers had been acquired from Mrs. Wirt Plane by the early 1940's. The papers of Mrs. Plane, who proposed the erection of a Stone Mountain Memorial, consist mainly of correspondence and clippings related to the early progress of the memorial. This series contains the fullest documentation of the first years of the project in the Stone Mountain Collection. Series 5, the papers of Mrs. James S. Nichols, 1925-1929, was donated in 1969-1970 by Mrs. Nichols' daughters, Mrs. Lucien Harris, Jr. and Mrs. Hubert E. Mayfield. This series contains material related mainly to the Venables' and the UDC's conflicts with the SMCMA, and also to a suit filed against the city of Atlanta in which Mrs. Nichols was directly involved.

The final series, Series 6, Miscellaneous Printed Materials, 1924-1977, contains material mainly collected by Emory. The clippings, booklets, magazines, and newspapers in this series represent the most recent material in the collection. These materials document the hiring of Walker Hancock in 1963, the completion of the memorial in 1970, and describe the varied attractions at Stone Mountain Park. A number of works on the history and geology of Stone Mountain are also included.

Correspondents represented in the Stone Mountain Collection include Ivan Ernest Allen (1877- ), Preston Stanley Arkwright (1871-1946), Gutzon Borglum (1871-1941), Mary Borglum, Grace Anna Coolidge (1879-1957), Hugh Manson Dorsey (1871-1948), Plato Tracy Durham (1873-1930), Nathan Bedford Forrest, Sterling Price Gilbert (1862- ), Lamartine Griffin Hardman (1856-1937) William Berry Hartsfield (1890-1971), William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), Clark Howell (1863-1936), Mrs. Samuel Martin Inman, Gerald White Johnson (1890- ), James Lee Key (1867-1939), Wilbur George Kurtz (1882-1967), Henry Augustus Lukeman (1871-1935), Joseph A. McCord, Elizabeth Venable Mason (1873-1951), Caroline Helen Jemison Plane (1829-1925), Isaac N. Ragsdale, Hollins Nicholas Randolph (1872-1938), John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960), Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), Mildred Lewis Rutherford (1852-1928), Mildred (Woolley) Seydell, Reed Smoot (1862-1941), Hughes Spalding (1886-1939), Elbert Lee Trinkle (1876-1939), Samuel Hoyt Venable (1856- ), James J. Walker (1881-1946), David W. Webb, George Francis Willis (1879-1932), and Rogers Winter.

Arrangement Note

Organized into six series: (1) Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association records, (2) Gutzon Borglum papers, (3) Samuel Hoyt Venable papers, (4) Caroline Helen Plane papers, (5) Mrs. James S. Nichols papers, and (6) Miscellaneous printed material.

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