The national anthem of the United States is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” written by a budding amateur poet, Francis Scott Key. As the story goes, Key watched the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812 and couldn’t get something he saw out of his mind — the American flag.

On March 4, 1931, the U.S. officially adopted this song as the national anthem, per Smithsonian Institute — “broad stripes and bright stars” would be a phrase immortalized in U.S. history. At the time, there was another contender for the national anthem, “America the Beautiful,” by Katharine Lee Bates.

Along with “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful” has been suggested as a replacement, according to The Kennedy Center. While these patriotic hymns don’t have the same status as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” they are widely recognized. Here’s a look into the history of these hymns that were also contenders for the national anthem.

Do you know the story behind these 7 patriotic songs?

History of ‘America the Beautiful’

During Bates’ 1893 trip to Colorado Springs, she trekked onto the top of Pike’s Peak, per Ballad of America. She said, “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.”

After she returned to her hotel room, she wrote the poem and published it under the name “Pikes Peak,” per Ballad of America.

It was first published in a weekly newspaper called “The Congregationalist” on July 4, 1895. According to The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Bates later revised the lyrics in 1904 and gave permission for it to appear in hymn books, poetry readers and more.

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The first verse reads, “O beautiful for spacious skies, / For amber waves of grain, / For purple mountain majesties / Above the fruited plain! / America! America! / God shed His grace on thee / And crown thy good with brotherhood / From sea to shining sea!”

History of ‘God Bless America’

In fall 1938, Irving Berlin decided to write a peace song, according to the Library of Congress. He found an unpublished song and tried to rework it — “Once Berlin decided to re-work the song, he worked in typical style: with speed and attention to detail. The first manuscript of ‘God Bless America’ (in the hand of musical secretary Helmy Kresa) is dated October 31, 1938, and the earliest ‘final’ version of the song is dated November 2.”

The song was introduced by Kate Smith on a CBS Radio Show on Nov. 10, 1938, per Irving Berlin’s website. He said he wrote the song when he was at Camp Upton in 1918 and later revised it. He told Variety, “In 1938, I didn’t want it to be a war song. I wanted it to be a song of peace. On Armistice Day, 1938, I spoke to Ted Collins (Smith’s manager) and he wanted a song for Kate Smith to sing on that program, where she introduced it.”

Here are the original lyrics to the song: “God Bless America /  land that I love / Stand beside her / And guide her / To the right with a light from above / Make her victorious on land and foam / God Bless America, my home sweet home.”

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