Friday, August 12, 2005

O Beautiful for Spacious Skies

Everyone knows that Francis Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner, but quick, who wrote America the Beautiful?

It's okay. I didn't know either. It was Katherine Lee Bates, born on today's date, August 12th in 1859 in Falmouth, MA, where she is also buried.

Miss Bates, who was lecturing at the summer session at Colorado College, joined an expedition to the summit of Pikes Peak She wrote,

"One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse."

America the Beautiful
first appeared in print in The Congregationalist, a weekly journal, on July 4, 1895. Bates later rewrote some sections, and the new version was published In The Boston Evening Transcripton Nov. 19, 1904. Following the 1904 publication, part of the third stanza was altered again by Bates, the final version of the poem completed in 1913.

In 1926, the National Federation of Music Clubs held a contest to put the poem to music, but none of the entries were deemed suitable. Today, America the Beautiful is almost exclusively sung to Samuel A. Ward's Materna, first published in 1888. The poem and music were first published together in 1910.

Bates retained the copyright on America the Beautiful, protecting it from misprints and deliberate changes. The only payment she ever received forthe poem was a small check from The Congregationalist when America the Beautiful was first published.

Sources: The Katherine Lee Bates "Shrine"; Infoplease

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