The United States boasts many iconic monuments like the Statue of Liberty or the United States Marine Corps War Memorial. These achievements in architecture and art all serve different purposes — some are utilitarian like the Golden Gate Bridge, and others are commemorative like the Abraham Lincoln Memorial. Whatever their purpose, these images are stamped into the minds of many Americans as they grow up, even if they have not seen it in person themselves. It’s difficult to imagine a pre-sculpted Mount Rushmore, or a flat field where the Washington Monument ought to be.

However, these things were designed and built by very real people, with their own stories and backgrounds and their own calluses on their hands. They toiled to make something that would last — something that would live beyond themselves and inspire awe and wonder into all those who would look upon their work.

Here is a look at some of the art, monuments and great structures of the United States — before and after their completion.

The Statue of Liberty

Head of the Statue of Liberty on display in France early in 1884, prior to being shipped to the United States. | AP Photo
A stereoscopic image of Lady Liberty’s hand and torch. | Wikipedia
Unpacking the head of the Statue of Liberty, delivered on June 17, 1885. | Wikipedia
The Statue of Liberty today. | AP Photo/Richard Drew

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore, in the Black Hills area of Keystone, S.D. on Aug. 15, 1927. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum has marked off the rock which he will carve the likenesses of U.S. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. | AP Photo
Drillers, suspended in slings fastened with cables to the winches at the top of the mountain, work on the George Washington head of the Mount Rushmore Memorial in 1929. Gutzon Borglum, sculptor, directs the carving from a projecting ledge at the left. | AP Photo
Work is carried on to carve out the shoulders and busts of Lincoln and Washington in Rushmore on May 2, 1933. | AP Photo
Mt. Rushmore today. | Wikipedia

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Construction workers proceed with the building of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the grounds near the Washington Monument on Friday, July 2, 1982. | AP Photo/Ron Edmonds
Workers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington on Oct. 8, 1982. | AP Photo/Ron Edmonds
Jim Cummings, left, uses a micrometer to check uniformity in the depth of the engraved letters of the names on the Vietnam Memorial, Aug. 26, 1982. Wally Parks, his assistant, look on the operation. | AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Two workmen put the final touches on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 1982. | AP Photo
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial today. | Wikipedia

United States Marine Corps War Memorial

Sculptor Felix Weihs de Weldon right, who is attempting to recreate the famous photograph of the flag raising on Iwo Jima during World War II as a sculpture, studies Marine Sgt. Harvey Owen, as he models the correct pose at his studio in Washington, D.C., Dec. 24, 1949. | AP Photo/Bill Chaplis
Sculptor Felix Weihs De Weldon, a Vienna born American citizen and war veteran of the U.S. Navy in WWII, works on the face of one the figures in a huge United States Marine Corps Memorial, in his studio in Washington, D.C., Dec. 24, 1949. | AP Photo/Bill Chaplis
The Associated Press in 1954: “It’s clumsy, tough, exacting work, but day by day the figures edge closer in place as the great Iwo Jima flag raising statue is erected in bronze on the Virginia side of the Potomac, in view of the Capitol and the Washington Monument, Sept. 14, 1954, Washington, D.C. Felix De Weldon, the sculptor, right in dark suit, supervises the work. Beside the base is a large picture of the statue as it will be modeled after the famed photo of World War II.” | AP Photo/William J. Smith
The Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, VA in March of 2009. | AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge under construction in the mid 1930s. | Wikipedia
Workers complete the catwalks for the Golden Gate Bridge, spanning the Golden Gate Strait, prior to spinning the bridge cables during construction in San Francisco, Ca., Oct. 25, 1935. | AP Photo
Workers install the first section of a huge safety net, at a cost of $98,000 at the time, that would extend from shore to shore beneath the Golden Gate Bridge span during construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sept. 2, 1935. | AP Photo
Waves crash on the pier at Fort Point as The Golden Gate Bridge lights up in the background at dusk in San Francisco, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009. | AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.

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