Words, Marble and Christmas Trees

Mary Borg

Colorado celebrated its 137th birthday on Aug. 1, the date in 1876 when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the proclamation that made Colorado the 38th state in the Union. Colorado expects no gifts to mark this momentous occasion, but since many of us associate gifts with birthdays, UNC history teacher Mary Borg has chronicled three memorable gifts that the state of Colorado has given to her country.

Colorado gave her country what would become treasured words written by English teacher Katharine Lee Bates, a visiting professor in 1893 at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. After venturing to the top of Pikes Peak aboard a prairie wagon and then a mule, she wrote, "Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains majesties, above the fruited plain." Her poem inspired by the beauty of Colorado was first published for Independence Day in 1895. It was put to music a few years later with the title "America the Beautiful," and is still sung proudly all over the country today.

Another gift from Colorado to America is marble, particularly the marble columns housing the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the marble on the Tomb of the Unknowns in the National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. The marble is from a quarry in Marble, Colo., which is south of Glenwood Springs.

Last December, Colorado gave the nation's capital the gift of a Christmas tree. The 73-foot-tall Engelmann spruce from the White River National Forest east of Meeker was the state's third Christmas tree to adorn the presidential residence. It was bedecked with more than 3,000 decorations created primarily by Colorado school children. Keeping this huge, perfectly shaped tree fresh was a challenge. A bladder holding 50 gallons of water was attached to the tree, which drank between 30 and 40 gallons of that water each day.

Colorado always has given America amazing gifts -- words, marble and Christmas trees -- what will Colorado give next?

- Mary Borg

Admission to all History Colorado museums was free Aug. 1, to celebrate Colorado Day:

About Mary Borg
Mary Borg teaches Colorado and American history at UNC. She's the author of Writing Your Life: An Easy-to-Follow Guide to Writing an Autobiography and Writing Your Life: a Guide for Young Adults. She's co-author with William Virden of the recently published Go To The Source: Discovering 20th Century U.S. History Through Colorado Documents, Go To The Source: a Teacher's Edition and My Colorado, a workbook for elementary school students.