america-beautifulThe song, “America the Beautiful," was based on a poem written by the professor, poet, and writer, Katharine Lee Bates, during an 1893 trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado. When she got to the top of Pike’s Peak, the view was so beautiful that it inspired her to write, "All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse."

The poem that Bates wrote first appeared in print in The Congregationalist, a weekly journal, on July 4, 1895. Within a few months, it was set to music by Silas G. Pratt. Bates revised the song in 1904, after receiving many requests to use the song in publications and special services. An additional change was made to the wording of the third verse in 1913 to give us the version we know today. The song is considered by some to be the country’s unofficial national anthem.

The first verse of the poem is as follows:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountains majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

“America, the Beautiful” facts and figures:

  • For years after "America the Beautiful" was written, it was sung to popular or folk tunes that would fit with the lyrics; "Auld Lang Syne" was the most popular of these tunes.
  • Today, "America the Beautiful" is sung to Samuel A. Ward’s "Materna.”

To learn more, see the Library of Congress site.