From Sea To Shining Sea - America The Beautiful


The majestic song “America the Beautiful” is well known to many people who live in the United States. This melody has become the unofficial anthem of America, coming in second to “The Star Spangled Banner,” but it’s beautiful words and easy tune still make it a favorite for many.

The words of “America the Beautiful” were written in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates, an English literature professor at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Ms. Bates was born in 1859 as the daughter of a minister. An author and a poet as well as a scholar, she had published several pieces of poetry, books about travel, and literature for children. During the summer of 1893, she traveled with a group across the country to speak in a lecture series at Colorado College. It was during this trip that her group ventured to climb Pikes Peak in the Rocky Mountains, near Colorado Springs. While standing at the top of the peak and viewing the vast beauty around her, she was inspired. She quickly penned the words to this beloved song. The poem was kept in a journal and put aside for the time being. It was not until 1895 that she submitted the verses to The Congregationalist, a weekly church journal, and its popularity grew. For several years, the poem was not set to music, and so it was sung to whatever tunes that fit at the time. Several hymns were popular as its background music, but nothing was officially decided to be the hymn behind the lyrics. Contests were even held to determine by popular opinion what would be the best choice of music for the poem. It was finally decided in 1904 that the song would be sung to the tune of “Materna,” a hymn written by Samuel Augustus Ward in 1888. The combination of the words and the fitting music became a huge success, and was sung in church congregations, then spreading to society at large. For several years, a debate unfolded debating if it should become America’s national anthem, but was put to rest in 1931 when the United States adopted “The Star Spangled Banner” as the official anthem.

The success of “America the Beautiful” has led it to become one of the most beloved hymns in the United States. Various performances of the song, some sung by well-known musicians, have particularly been enjoyed by people across the United States. The music is patriotic and describes the beauty of the country, and it brings pride for the people of America.

For more information about the history of the song, “America the Beautiful,” refer to the following sources:

•   America the Beautiful Lyrics
•   Songs and Hymns: Materna
•   Katharine Lee Bates-America the Beautiful
•   Songwriters Hall of Fame
•   Wellesley History: Katharine Lee Bates
•   America the Beautiful: Song Collection
•   Songs and Oaths: America the Beautiful