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My Country Tis Of Thee

History | Lyrics | Samuel Francis Smith Bio

Samuel Francis Smith

Samuel Francis Smith was born on October 21, 1808, in Boston, Massachusetts. In Boston Samuel Smith attended Eliot School and then Boston Latin School—a college preparatory school and the first public school in America. In September of 1825, Smith went on to Harvard College (now Harvard University) in Cambridge, near Boston. At Harvard he earned tuition money by doing translations from other languages into English, and by writing newspaper and magazine articles. Smith graduated from Harvard in 1829, with many honors. After working in journalism for a short time, he decided to become a minister. In September of 1830, he entered Andover Theological Seminary.

In 1832 Smith translated a German poem for a friend and liked the melody very much. He wrote new English words for it, and that new song became "America."

Soon Samuel Smith met Mary White Smith (they both grew up with the same last name!), the woman who would become his wife. Smith wanted to have a steady job before getting married, and he got two jobs: He became both a professor of Modern Languages at Waterville College in Waterville, Maine, and the pastor of the Waterville Baptist Church. Samuel and Mary were married on September 16, 1834.

In 1841, Smith accepted a job as the editor of The Christian Review. This job allowed him to return to Boston. He also took a part-time job as pastor at the Newton Centre Baptist Church, just outside of Boston.

After 12 years as pastor of the Newton Centre Baptist Church, Smith gave up that job to become the secretary of the Baptist Missionary Union. As part of his new job, he traveled all over the United States.

A celebration in honor of Samuel Smith took place in Boston on April 3, 1895. "America" was sung and the United States Marine Band played. The governor of Massachusetts introduced Smith to the audience, and he gave a speech. The Smiths were given a gift of $2,000, and a famous artist was commissioned to paint Smith’s portrait.

On Saturday, November 16, 1895, Samuel Francis Smith died. "America" was sung at his funeral.

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