Let's take a walk down history lane and see how Colorado's Pikes Peak inspired the song "America the Beautiful."
We all know the song "America the Beautiful," but where did it come from? Where did its author, Katharine Lee Bates, draw her inspiration from? Well, that's what we're here to find out!
Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929)
Born in Massachusetts, Bates was an English teacher at Wellesley College, her alma mater. During the summer of 1893, she accepted a teaching position at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. The trek from Massachusetts to Colorado Springs spanned 2,000 miles and took her through several areas of the United States, including Chicago and Kansas. Now, being a professor had its perks—one of them included the chance to go on a horse-drawn carriage ride up Pikes Peak. It's been said that once she reached the summit, Bates spent a full 30 minutes taking in the gorgeous sites that Pikes Peak offered. And on the journey down, she began writing in her diary.
According to the Pikes Peak website, one entry said:
"... we stood at last on that Gate-of-Heaven summit ... and gazed in wordless rapture over the far expanse of mountain ranges and the sea-like sweep of plain."
Bates later recalled the journey:
"... our sojourn on the peak remains in memory hardly more than one ecstatic gaze. It was then and there, as I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind."
All of her experiences on that trip inspired her to write the poem, "America," which later became the song "America the Beautiful."
"America the Beautiful"
On July 4, 1895, two years after her trip to Colorado Springs, the original four stanzas of Bates' poem were printed in an issue of The Congregationalist newspaper. Almost 10 years later, Bates reworked and revised the poem, which was then published in The Boston Evening Transcript (1904). Final additions and changes were eventually made in 1913. Its change from a poem into a song was a slow, gradual process, and many people sang the words along with the tune of "Auld Lang Syne" and eventually it was accompanied by the melody of Samuel Augustus Ward's "Materna."
Courtesy of Commons Wikipedia
In 1926, there was a contest held to pick the national anthem. But in the end, President Hoover picked the "Star-Spangled Banner" over "America the Beautiful."
However, the song has become just as popular, if not more, than our national anthem. And "Materna" is still used as the standard melody today.
Lyrics to "America the Beautiful":
O beautiful, for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea. O beautiful, for pilgrim feet Whose stern, impassioned stress A thoroughfare for freedom beat Across the wilderness! America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw; Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law! O beautiful, for heroes proved In liberating strife, Who more than self their country loved And mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine, Till all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine! O beautiful, for patriot dream That sees beyond the years, Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!
What do you think of the song's history? Did you know that Pikes Peak was the basis for "America the Beautiful" before reading this? Know any other fun facts about the song, Katharine Lee Bates, and/or Pikes Peak that you'd like to share with us? Drop a comment below, and let's get the conversation started!