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Sesquicentennial Minute: Katharine Lee Bates visited Pikes Peak in 1893, inspired her to pen ‘America The Beautiful’

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- You may have noticed her sitting outside the Pioneers Museum in downtown Colorado Springs, gazing up at Pikes Peak in all her bronze glory: her name is Katharine Lee Bates, and she's more than just a statue.

Bates, an English professor from the East Coast, was visiting Colorado Springs in the summer of 1893, teaching a summer course at Colorado College. It was during that time she got the opportunity to travel up to the top of Pikes Peak; by the time she got back down to the Springs, she was inspired to write what would become one of America's most famous songs.

"When she got back down in the Antlers Hotel, she wrote the initial parts of the first stanza, and other parts that would later be revised, of 'America The Beautiful,' as a poem," said Katherine Sturdevant, a history professor at Pikes Peak Community College.

"She thought it was inspiring. She thought it was an example of what was great about America," she said.

Her 1893 poem would eventually become the song we all know very well today.

"She said she's never seen anything as spectacular as what she saw from the top of Pikes Peak," said Sturdevant. "[To] Tell the story of America and how beautiful and important it is based on Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak. That's kind of an amazing connection if you think about it," said Sturdevant.

"They did hear about Colorado Springs through her eyes because of what she wrote," she said.

Sesquicentennial Minute is a summer series produced by KRDO's Josh Helmuth leading up to Colorado Springs' 150th birthday on July 31, 2021.

Josh Helmuth

Josh is an anchor for Good Morning Colorado. Learn more about Josh here.

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