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Songs and Oaths:
America, the Beautiful

"America the Beautiful" was written by the professor, poet, and writer, Katharine Lee Bates. Bates wrote the song in 1893 while on a trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado. When she got to the top of Pike’s Peak, she said, "All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse". The view was so beautiful that it inspired her to write the song that is considered by some to be the country’s unofficial national anthem.

"America the Beautiful" 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.

For two years after "America the Beautiful" was written it was sung to just about any popular or folk tune that would fit with the lyrics. "Auld Lang Syne" was the most popular of these tunes. In 1926, the National Federation of Music Clubs had a contest to put the poem to music. None of the entries seemed to fit the poem. Today, "America the Beautiful" is sung to Samuel A. Ward’s "Materna". Before her death in 1929, Ms. Bates never indicated publicly which music she liked best.

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This audio version of "America the Beautiful" was obtained from the United States Air Force (USAF) Heritage of America Band. Visit the USAF Heritage of America Band's official Web site for more patriotic songs.