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America the Beautiful

[]Did you know that the lyrics to America the Beautiful were originally published as a poem in The Congregationalist in celebration Independence Day in 1895?

It was written by Katharine Lee Bates, a native of Falmouth, Mass. and the daughter of Congregational pastor William Bates. She was inspired by the view from Pike's Peak during an excursion in 1893 while she was teaching English at Colorado College. Miss Bates revised the verses a few times over the next twenty years. Our skies were originally "halcyon" rather than "spacious", for example, and each verse ended with a different couplet.

original text of America The Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates
as it appeared in
The Congregationalist


Her lyrics were sung to several different tunes before settling with the one we know today. The now-familiar melody was composed by Samuel A. Ward in 1882, and first published with Bates's words in 1910.


photograph of Katharine Lee Bates courtesy of the Wellesley College Archives