Korczak Ziolkowski

Korczak- Storyteller in Stone

Copyright © Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation™ 

Korczak & Chief Henry Standing Bear at 1948 dedication
Without Korczak there would be no Crazy Horse Memorial. Its history always will revolve around his own extraordinary story, which is reflected in his log studio-home, workshop and sculptural galleries at Crazy Horse. His life and work are an inspiration to many, especially to young people.

Although he became most famous as a mountain carver, he was a noted studio sculptor and member of the National Sculpture Society before he came west. Crazy Horse represents only the second half of his life, and he said it was the collective experience of the difficult first half of his life which prepared him for Crazy Horse and which enabled him to prevail over the decades of financial hardship and racial prejudice he encountered trying to create an Indian memorial in the Black Hills.

Born in Boston of Polish descent, Korczak was orphaned at age one and grew up in a series of foster homes. As a boy he was badly mistreated, but he learned to work very hard. He also gained heavy construction and other skills helping his tough foster father. On his own at 16, he took odd jobs to put himself through Rindge Technical School in Cambridge, after which he became an apprentice patternmaker in the shipyards on the rough Boston waterfront.
He experimented with woodworking, making beautiful furniture. At age 18, he made a grandfather's clock hand-crafted from 55 pieces of Santa Domingo mahogany. Although he never took a lesson in art or sculpture, he studied the masters and began creating plaster and clay studies. In 1932 he used a coal chisel to carve his first portrait, a marble tribute to Judge Frederick Pickering Cabot, the famous Boston juvenile judge who had befriended and encouraged the gifted boy and introduced him to the world of fine arts.

Moving to West Hartford, Conn. Korczak launched a successful studio career doing commissioned sculpture throughout New England, Boston and New York. His Carrara marble portrait, PADEREWSKI, Study of an Immortal, won first prize by popular vote at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Paderewski - 1939

A childhood dream came true when he was asked to assist Gutzon Borglum at Mt. Rushmore. The two sculptors became close friends during the summer of 1939 when Korczak was Mr. Borglum's assistant at Mt. Rushmore.

Noah Webster -- 1942
Back in Connecticut he spent two years carving the 13 1/2-foot Noah Webster Statue as a gift to West Hartford. The work drew national attention but embroiled the community and the sculptor in controversy, foreshadowing what was to come at Crazy Horse. At age 34 he volunteered for service in World War II. He landed on Omaha Beach and, later, was wounded.

At war's end he was invited to make government war memorials in Europe. but he had decided to accept the Indians' invitation and to dedicate the rest of his life to Crazy Horse Memorial.

During nearly 36 years he refused to take any salary at Crazy Horse, on which he worked until his death October 20, 1982 at age 74. He is buried in the tomb he and his sons blasted from a rock outcropping near which the permanent Indian museum will rise at the foot of the mountain carving. For the tomb door he wrote his own epitaph and cut it from three-quarter inch steel plate. It reads:

Storyteller in Stone
May His Remains Be Left Unknown

Copyright © Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation™ 

Copyright © Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation™  Used with permission.