America the Beautiful” was written in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates, a professor of English literature at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Bates wrote the lyrics while on a trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Describing the extraordinary view at the top of Pike’s Peak she said, “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.”

On July 4, 1895, “America the Beautiful” first ap­peared in print in the Congregationalist, a weekly journal. A few months later, the lyrics were set to music by Silas G. Pratt. Bates revised the lyrics in 1904 after receiving many requests to use the song in publications and special services. In 1913, Bates made an additional change to the wording of the third verse, creating the version we know today.

For several years, “America the Beautiful” was sung to just about any popular or folk tune that would fit with the lyrics. In 1926, the National Federation of Music Clubs held a contest to put the poem to music, but failed to select a winner. Today, “America the Beautiful” is sung to Samuel A. Ward’s 1882 melody “Materna.”


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 impassion’d 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 prov’d

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.