Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean

TITLE: Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean
AUTHOR: David T. Shaw/Thomas a’Beckett/Stephen Joseph Meany
CATEGORY: Disputed, Public Domain
KEYWORDS: patriotic
EARLIEST DATE: Written in 1843, sheet music published in 1844
HISTORICAL REFERENCES: First Recording:  Columbia, the gem of the ocean, Harry Macdonough 1905-06-01

220px-Columbia,_Gem_of_the_Ocean_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_21566“Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” received an American copyright in 1843 and is credited to the name of David T. Shaw. Yet to understand the true origins of Shaw’s song one must follow two threads. One thread leads to Thomas a’Beckett who claimed to have rewritten Shaw’s lyrics before the song was copyrighted. The other thread leads to Stephen Joseph Meany who wrote the poem “Britannia, the Pride of the Ocean,” from which, in turn, a’Beckett may have taken his lyrics.

About 1843, David Shaw, a Philadelphia singer, wrote a few patriotic lines and commissioned another performer, the actor and musician Thomas a’Beckett, to put them to music. A’Beckett, apparently not fond of Shaw’s lines, rewrote them as he composed the tune. Shaw performed the new piece to great acclaim, but when the music was first published he alone was credited as both composer and lyricist. A’Beckett, credited only as the arranger, contested authorship and subsequently published his own version of the song.

Sheet music from both 1843 and 1846 credited the American title as “Columbia, the Land of the Brave.” Yet between these two dates, in 1844, the song was also published under the title it subsequently retained, “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.” Extremely popular during Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War administration, the song became a standard tune in the U.S. Marine Corps Band’s repertoire. (United States Library of Congress)

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • Columbia, The Land of the Brave

RECORDINGS:

  • Douglas Jimerson
  • The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

YOUTUBE VIDEO:

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO:

Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean

Columbia, the gem of the ocean,
The home of the brave and the free
The shrine of each patriot’s devotion,
A world offers homage to thee.

Thy mandates make heroes assemble,
when liberty’s form stands in  view
Thy banners make tyranny tremble,
When borne by the red, white, and blue!

When borne by the red, white, and blue!
When borne by the red, white, and blue!
Thy banners make tyranny tremble,
When borne by the red, white, and blue!

When war winged it’s wide desolations,
and threatened the land to deform
The ark then of freedom’s foundation,
Columbia, rode safe through the storm

With the garlands of vict’ry about her,
when so proudly she bore her brave crew
With her flag proudly floating before her,
the boast of the red, white, and blue!

The boast of the red, white, and blue!
The boast of the red, white, and blue!
With her flag proudly floating before her,
the boast of the red, white, and blue!

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Folksinger’s Wordbook (Irwin and Fred Silber), Music Sales Corporation 1973.

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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