Lot 84
  • 84

Katherine Lee Bates

25,000 - 40,000 USD
23,750 USD
bidding is closed


  • Autograph transcript signed ("Katherine Lee Bates") of "America the Beautiful"
  • Paper, Ink
1 page (10 3/8 x 7 1/4 in.; 265 x 185 mm) written on the verso of a sheet of her sepia-toned personal 70 Curve Street, Wellesley, Massachusetts letterhead; some light staining on verso from earlier mounting.


Swann Galleries (undesignated consignor), 11 April 2002, lot 17

Catalogue Note

"O BEAUTIFUL FOR SPACIOUS SKIES, | FOR AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN, | FOR PURPLE MOUNTAINS MAJESTIES | ABOVE THE FRUITED PLAIN!" A scarce complete autograph transcript of Bates's most famous composition and one of the most popular patriotic songs in United States history.

Bates built a home on 70 Curve Street in 1907 and the present manuscript can confidently be dated to 1914–1925, when she was a professor in the English Department at Wellesley College. The poem was written in 1893, but revised in both 1904 and 1913; the text of this copy is the third and final version of the poem, as indicated by the first line of the third stanza.

Bates later recalled the inspiration for the poem, which was written during a summer spent teaching at Colorado College, Colorado Springs: "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" was first published in The Congregationalist, a weekly journal, for Independence Day, 1895, but gained wider popularity when the first revised text appeared in The Boston Evening Transcript on 19 November 1904. Set to the music of the hymn "Materna" by Samuel A. Ward, Bates's lyric is as well known and popular as Francis Scott Key's "Star-Spangled Banner."