Sam Walter Foss

Sam Walter Foss

Sam Walter Foss (June 19, 1858 - February 26, 1911) was an American librarian and poet whose works included The House by the Side of the Road and The Coming American.[1][2][3]


Birthplace of Sam Foss in Candia, New Hampshire: the original "House by the Side of the Road"

Foss was born in rural Candia, New Hampshire. He lost his mother at age four, worked on his father's farm and went to school in the winter. He graduated from Brown University in 1882, and would be considered illustrious enough to warrant having his name inscribed on the mace. Beginning in 1898, he served as librarian at the Somerville Public Library in Massachusetts. He married a minister's daughter, with whom he had a daughter and son. Foss used to write a poem a day for the newspapers, and his five volumes of collected poetry are of the frank and homely “common man” variety.

He is buried in the North Burial Ground in Providence, Rhode Island.


For many years the opening lines from Foss's The Coming American ("Bring me men to match my mountains / Bring me men to match my plains / Men with empires in their purpose / And new eras in their brains") were inscribed on a granite wall at the United States Air Force Academy to inspire cadets and officers, but they were removed in 2003 to harmonize in perception to the Air Force Academy's having become coeducational. These words are currently engraved and displayed at Epcot in Orlando, Florida and at the south end of the Jesse M. Unruh Building near the State Capitol building in Sacramento, CA. These opening lines are inscribed onto the Rocky Mountain Cup trophy, which is contested annually between MLS teams Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids.

Longtime baseball announcer Ernie Harwell alluded to Foss's The House by the Side of the Road whenever he described a batter taking a called third strike: "He stood there like the house by the side of the road and watched it go by."

Singer Lamya's song "Empires (Bring Me Men)" takes most of its lyrics from The Coming American.

A recitation of Foss's Two Gods provides the lyrics to the song "A Greater God" by MC 900 Ft. Jesus.



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