• Happy birthday Jamie Gilson (Thirteen Ways to Sink a Sub).
  • It’s the birth date of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), The House of the Seven Gables.
  • Birthday greetings to Koko the gorilla, born on this day in 1971. Read Koko’s Kitten by Dr. Francine Patterson, photographs by Ronald Cohn.
  • In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved and signed. Read The Signers: The 56 Stories Behind the Declaration of Independence by Dennis Brindell Fradin, illustrated by Michael McCurdy.
  • Other notable Independence Days include: 1826 – The fifteenth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence signing, former U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die. 1884 – Statue of Liberty presented to U.S. by France 1976 – United States Bicentennial
  • It’s Sidewalk Egg Frying Day. Read Sidewalk Circus by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Kevin Hawles, The Egg by M. P. Robertson, and How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell.

Today we celebrate Independence Day in the United States with fireworks and patriotic songs. The best-loved melody about America does not happen to be our national anthem, which even trained singers perform with difficulty. Most Americans prefer an easier and more haunting song, first published over a hundred years ago: “America the Beautiful.”

The words for this celebration of the American landscape first appeared on July 4, 1895, in the Congregationalist. Written by Wellesley College professor Katharine Lee Bates, this poem was inspired by a trip to Pikes Peak in Colorado. She continued to revise the words for several years, to make it easier to sing. In 1888 music composer Samuel Ward, traveling on a steamboat ride from Coney Island, started humming a tune, one that he had to write down on a friend’s shirt cuff because he had no paper at hand. Finally, in 1910, the words and music of the song we know today were published together.

Following in the tradition of N. C. Wyeth, Edward Hopper, and Norman Rockwell, Wendell Minor stands as the most accomplished re-creator of American history and natural life in the twenty-first century. In America the Beautiful, he depicts magnificent scenes from across the country—the alabaster cities, patriot dreams, and amber waves of grain. In double-page spreads showing the hill country of Texas, a lighthouse in Massachusetts, or Mount Rushmore, Minor infuses each glorious painting with light, dignity, beauty, and love. Each double-page image serves as a reminder of the natural and human-made wonders of the United States.

At the back of the book Minor identifies all the locations depicted in his art, and he also places each on a map of the United States. Background notes about Katharine Lee Bates and Samuel Ward round out this volume, which includes a CD narrated by Minor and a recording of this beloved song. So pick up a copy of America the Beautiful for the Fourth of July. It brilliantly showcases what all Americans can joyfully celebrate—“from sea to shining sea.”

Here’s a page from America the Beautiful:


Originally posted July 4, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Geography, History, Nature
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for America the Beautiful


  1. Truly one of my favorite books of all time; Wendell Minor outdid himself in these illustrations as shown by the page you showed where those amber waves of grain are truly softly bowing to the winds of freedom. And I was glad to see mention of Apple Pie 4th of July as that is one I particularly like for the 4th as well!

  2. suzi w. says:

    Oh dear, I’m afraid my fingers are gearing up for gush mode. I’ll try to hem them in. Apple Pie 4th of July is one of my favorite books, thank you for mentioning it!! And Wendell Minor…is truly a national treasure. By the time July 4th comes along, teachers are no longer coming to our desk for holiday books and we’re too strung out on Summer Reading exhaustion and focus on the theme to do a display. But come Tuesday, I will be running to the shelf to look at the art in this book more closely. One of my treasured “books about books” is Minor’s “Art for the Written Word: 25 years of book cover art.”

    Happy Fourth, Anita!

  3. Arita says:

    Sure was hoping Wendell Minor’s AMERICA the BEAUTIFUL would be the choice for today!!!!! His art is “top drawer.”

  4. G.Perry says:

    This book is new to me and I can’t wait to find it. it sounds like a treasure.

    I never got over the scene where American The Beautiful was sung in the old film Spencer’s Mountain.

    This site alone, is worth having a computer for.

    Happy 4th, and blessings on a site that conveys some of the finest things about – We The People.

  5. Fiore says:

    Wendell, whenever we enjoy a National Holiday, I’m reminded of your ‘Faithful Adherence’ to those epic events in American History, that you produce.

    I guess that your work has made an impact on those who love the principles that we enjoy in America, and are willing to sacrifice for it’s continued values and its wonderful landscape. FC

  6. Anita says:

    Thank you all for your comments — and Gordon thanks for keeping me going!

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