Flags of Our Nation
U.S. Flag with Amber Waves of Grain
Issue Date: August 6, 2009
City: Washington, DC
Wheat covers the fields of the Great Plains like a sea of gold – with waves of rippling yellow shafts.
In the mid-18th century, Mennonites emigrated from the steppes of Russia to the plains of the United States – bringing with them wheat seeds that would help feed a growing nation. The work was backbreaking but the land was fruitful. With the invention of horse-drawn plows, seeders, and threshers, the settlers were able to increase production. Soon, wheat became a cash crop and the Great Plains was transformed into America’s breadbasket.
In 1893, Katharine Lee Bates traveled west to Colorado. As Bates approached Colorado Springs, she was awestruck at how the Pikes Peak granite gave the mountains a purple hue. As she stood on top of those “purple mountains” and looked down on the endless fields of grain, a poem came to mind. The ode to America’s natural beauty was praised by all who read it. An adaptation of her poem was put to hymn music and titled “America the Beautiful.”
Forty-four stars adorned the U.S. flag when Katharine Lee Bates wrote her poem. The country has grown by leaps and bounds since then - fueled by its “amber waves of grain.”