“America First” (1916)
The inspiration for this march came from the text of a 1915 speech by President Woodrow Wilson given at the twenty-fifth anniversary convention of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, D.C.: “Our whole duty for the present is summed up in the motto ‘America First.’”
At the suggestion of Col. George E. Richards of the U.S. Marine Corps, the march was dedicated to Mrs. William Cumming Story, President of the D.A.R. Sousa needed no prodding to compose a piece for the D.A.R., because both of his daughters were members.
A dual première took place as Washington’s birthday was celebrated on February 22, 1916. Sousa’s Band play the march at the New York Hippodrome while the U.S. Marine Band played it in Washington The march consists mostly of original material, but fragments of four popular songs of the day are encompassed: “Dixie," “Maryland, My Maryland,” “We’re Off to Philadelphia in the Morning,” and “Yankee Doodle.”
The subtitle of the piece, “A March of the States,” caused confusion because Sousa’s incidental music for the Hip Hip Hooray show at the New York Hippodrome was also called “March of the States” and was written at approximately the same time.
Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 43. Used by permission.