Samuel Francis Smith was born in Boston, Massachusetts on October 21, 1808. He attended the Boston Latin school from 1820-1825 and graduated from Harvard in 1829. He attended the Andover theological seminary in 1832 and was ordained to the ministry of the Baptist church at Waterville, Maine, in 1834. From 1834 through 1842, he occupied pastorates at Waterville and Newton, Massachusetts. In 1842-'54, and was professor of modern languages in Waterville college (now Colby university) and held the position until 1854. He was editor of "The Christian Review" in Boston in 1842-'8, and editor of the various publications of the Baptist missionary union in 1854-'69. In 1875-'6 and 1880-'2 he visited the chief missionary stations in Europe and Asia. He received a Doctorate degree of D. D. from Waterville College in 1854.
Dr. Smith produced a large amount of literary work, mainly in the line of hymnology, his most noted composition being the national hymn, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," which was written while he was a theological student studying in Germany in 1832. Allegedly, Smith was impressed that school children there started each day by singing a hymn. He wrote “America” for American school children to recite in the same manner. The tune was taken from a song he had heard while writing the lyrics, the melody of the British anthem “God Save the King”. The hymn was first sung at a children's celebration in the Park Street Church, Boston on July 4, 1832.
Another notable hymn, "The Morning Light is Breaking," was written at the same place and time. His collections of original hymns and poetry and poetical translations have been published under the titles of Lyric Gems (Boston, 1843); The Psalmist, a noted Baptist hymnbook (1843); and Rock of Ages (1866; new ed., 1877). He also published Life of Reverend Joseph Grafton (1848), Missionary Sketches (1879 ; 2d ed., 1883), History of Newton, Massachusetts (1880), Rambles in Mission-Fields (1884) and contributions to numerous periodicals.
Samuel Francis Smith died in 1895.