Here is one of the most popular songs of the first half of the twentieth century, with more than 25 million copies having been printed. It has been recorded by singers as diverse as Ella Fitzgerald, The Browns, The Mills Brothers, Burl Ives, and many others.
The lyrics to "Brighten the Corner" were written in 1913 by Ina Duley Ogdon. Ogdon planned to make a career as a lecturer in the Chatauqua circuit, but her plans were changed when her father suffered a stroke and was taken in by Ina, her husband, and their 11-year-old son. The lyrics to this song are said to have been written to cheer up her father who had been paralyzed by the stroke.
She sent the poem to Charles H. Gabriel, who wrote the music for it and sent it on to Homer Rodeheaver, singer for evangelist Billy Sunday. The song instantly became popular after being introduced at a Billy Sunday meeting in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1913. Sunday adopted it as his theme song, and used it in every service thereafter. It soon became known throughout the world.
In 1916, Theodore Roosevelt used it to begin political rallies across the country, and it was one of the favorite hymns of American soldiers in World War I. In Nanking China, in 1925, the local baseball team chose it as their team song, and it was sung before every game. When U.S. forces in the south Pacific invaded Tarawa Atoll in 1943, the natives welcomed their liberators by singing "Brighten the Corner," having learned it from American missionaries years earlier.