The tropical paradise pictured on this sheet music cover is part of the tangled history of the University of Idaho’s alma mater and the state song of Idaho. The music for this popular song was adapted by Alice Bessee to fit words by McKinley Helm, both University of Idaho students, for a 1917 campus song contest. Their new song, “Our Idaho,” won the contest and became a regular feature of university events.
In the 1930s, after research indicated that the music was copyrighted by Sallie Hume-Douglas of Honolulu, the regents of the university contracted with the composer for permission to use the song as the alma mater. In the meantime, others had written different verses which were adopted by the state legislature in 1931 as the Idaho state song, now entitled “Here We Have Idaho.”
The original McKinley Helm chorus, as it appeared in the ca. 1919 songbook, is as follows:
And here we have Idaho
Scourged on her way to fame
Silver and gold in the sunlight blaze,
And romance lies in her name.
Singing, we're singing of you,
Ah, proudly, too,
All our lives thro', we'll go
Singing, singing of you, Alma Mater, Our Idaho.
Since 1931, the second line has been rendered as “Winning her way to fame,” a much less forceful expression.
Written in 1997 for the library’s Digital Memories website.
Music cover: Hume-Douglas, Sallie. Garden of Paradise: Hawaiian Love Song. Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho Library.