This exclusive interview with Lou Del Bianco was conducted by Nicola Linza and Cristoffer Neljesjö in New York during May 2011
My grandfather Luigi Del Bianco was born aboard a ship near La Havre, France on May 8, 1892. His parents, Vincenzo and Osvalda, were returning from the United States to Italy. When he was a small boy hanging around the wood carvingshop of his father in Meduno, Pordenone province, men of the village used to say, “How curious the little one is!” Vincenzo Del Bianco became convinced that his son was interested in carving and had more than ordinary ability. He took the 11 year old boy to Austria to study under a skilled stone carver. After two years in Vienna, Luigi then went on to study in Venice.
In 1909, cousins in Barre,Vermont wrote that skilled carvers were needed, 17 year old Luigi boarded the La Touraine out of Naples and headed for America. In 1913 World War I broke out and Luigi returned to Italy to fight for his country. After the war, He emigrated back to Barre, VT. In 1920 and after a year of work as a stonecutter, he settled in Port Chester, NY where he met his wife, Nicoletta Cardarelli.
How did Luigi come to be associated with Mount Rushmore designer Gutzon Borlgum?
The boys went to school, rode horses, became blood brothers to the Sioux and swam naked in the nearby streams. A daughter, Gloria, was born in 1946. She fondly remembers her father as "Charming, funny and very handsome."
Why wasn't Luigi given any credit or mentioned in most publications about his work?
Now, in terms of factual evidence, we know that most authors who wrote about Rushmore were from the area and wrote mostly about the men who were natives of South Dakota. We also know that Luigi quit the mountain several times over lack of wages. “The Borglum Papers” out of the Library of Congress, tells, in Borglum’s own words, his frustration over the way Luigi was being treated:
“For the purpose of Washington's “red tape”, a portion of our better men are designated as carvers; there are no carvers on the mountain—there never have been but one and he refused to return because of the chronic sabotage directed at him by influences in RapidCity, and the Park Department.”