The words of this popular hymn, now known as the national hymn of America, were written in 1832. Dr. Smith says : " I found the tune in a German music book, brought to this country by the late William C. Woodbridge, and put into my hands by Lowell Mason, because I could read German books and he could not." The real origin of the tune is much disputed, but the credit is usually given to Henry Carey. The hymn was first sung at a children's Fourth of July celebration, in the Park Street Church, Boston. Dr. Samuel Francis Smith was born in Boston, October 21, 1808. He died in the same city, November 16, 1895, at the " New York and New England " depot, while on his way to fulfill an engagement to preach at Readville.
While traveling in Egypt I met the author's son, who is a missionary in that country, and said to him that if I ever got home I would sing his father's song with new interest; for I was now more than ever convinced that my beloved America, the land of liberty, was the dearest of all lands to me.
Dr. Smith visited the Board of Trade in Chicago in May of 1887. While sitting in the gallery he was pointed out to some of the members. Soon he became the center of considerable notice. All at once the trading on the floor ceased, and from the wheat-pit came the familiar words, " My country, 'tis of thee." After two stanzas had been sung, Dr. Smith arose and bowed. A rousing cheer was given by the men on the floor, to which Dr. Smith was now escorted by the secretary of the Board. The members flocked around Dr. Smith and grasped his hand. Then they opened a passage through the crowd and led him to the wheat-pit, where they took off their hats and sang the rest of the hymn.