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Katharine Lee Bates


“Let the deed shaw." 

Katharine Lee Bates, 1859-1929.  American educator, poet, and songwriter.  Autographed Quotation Signed, Katharine Lee Bates, on the back of Batesʼs calling card.

The author of America the Beautiful writes a quotation:  “Let the deed shaw."  She signs the card “Yours very truly  /  Katharine Lee Bates." 

This item comes from a large collection of letters, notes, and signatures assembled by a professor of penmanship at the State Normal School at Emporia, Kansas, now Emporia State University, who had his students write to prominent men and women to request a handwritten letter expressing a reminiscence, a favorite sentiment, or a word of advice. 

The quotation “Let the deed shaw" was the motto of the Wellesley College Class of 1897.  Bates was an 1880 alumna of the college and for years was a professor of English literature there.

Interestingly, however, the quotation is also the Scottish Fleming clan motto.  “Let the deed shaw,” or, translated, "Let the deed show,” is a bloody reference to Sir Robert Flemingʼs act of severing the head of the murdered John “Red" Comyn.  After the Norman conquest, King David gave land in southern Scotland to Baldwin the Fleming in exchange for his military support.  The Flemings ruled the town of Biggar and supported Robert the Bruce in his fight for the Scottish crown.  On February 10, 1306, the Bruce arranged to meet Comyn, his rival, in the chancel of the Franciscan church in the center of Dumfries, Scotland.  Although the men left their swords at the church door, the Bruce kept a small dagger.  When a fight erupted, he stabbed Comyn and left him lying by the altar.  One of his kinsmen, Roger de Kirkpatrick, ran into the church, shouting “I mak siccar!," or “I'll make sure!"  He did.  Then Fleming went into the church, severed Comynʼs head, and brought it outside.  Holding the dripping head aloft, he spoke the words that would become the Fleming family motto:  “Let the deed shaw."  The Bruce granted Fleming Comyn's lands in Cumbernauld as a reward.

Bates wrote her best known work, America the Beautiful, after she experienced the view from atop Pike's Peak while she taught English at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.  She recalled that she and other teachers took a prairie wagon up the mountain but, near the top, had to finish the journey on mules.  “I was very tired,” she said.  “But when I saw the view, I felt great joy.  All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse."  She wrote the poem quickly.  The poem first appeared in The Congregationalist for Independence Day in 1895.  Bates later published a revised version in the Boston Evening Transcript in 1904, and she wrote the final expanded version in 1913.

Bates has penned this quotation and signed the card in black fountain pen.  The card has minor soiling and a collectorʼs pencil notation at the lower left, and there are mounting traces on the opposite side that bears the printed name “Miss Katharine Lee Bates."  It is in fine condition.




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