Samuel Augustus Ward, composer of "America, the Beautiful," was born in 1847. He was a gifted child. He played the accordion at age six. As a teenager he taught piano lessons to help support his family. He moved to New York when he was sixteen and became a professional church organist. He opened a successful music store in Newark, NJ, teaching piano and selling items such as instruments and sheet music.
In 1890, Ward formed a male vocal group. The Orpheus Society became one of New York's best known choirs. Besides directing, he wrote and arranged most of their music. Labeled a genius by people who knew him, he was an unassuming man who enjoyed life one day at a time. Deeply religious, Ward saw God's hand in everything.