National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1907-1930: We are a diverse nation, confronting our differences

August 19, 1918
An immigrant songwriter has America singing

Irving Berlin

Ever since he wrote “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” Irving Berlin has been the country’s hottest popular composer.

Now the songwriter is a sergeant. Berlin, whose family came to America to escape anti-Jewish violence in Russia, became a citizen in February…and was drafted in March.

He and 300 soldiers opened a musical spoof of Army life on Broadway tonight to a sold-out house. But one patriotic number he’d written didn’t make Berlin’s final cut. Too solemn, he said.

Friday, November 11, 1938

To celebrate Armistice Day, Berlin dusted off that long-forgotten song for Kate Smith’s weekly radio show. She sang it for the first time last night, and it’s a hit.

It’s called “God Bless America.”

Read about it in the New York times

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