The poem, "Footprints in the Sand," by Mary Stevenson was originally written in 1936. The first copy kept by the author is from 1939 and is the date she attributes to the poem. Its copyright date is 1984, as a result of her having found the 1939 manuscript.
Mary Stevenson originally offered hand written unsigned copies of "Footprints in the Sand" to individuals in need of comfort, which lead to its printed distribution without attribution starting in the late 1940's. After seeing the poem in print, she sought the advice of a lawyer, who indicated that without the early documentation, it was unlikely that she could prove her authorship.
Mary found the 1939 version in her garage. This was the proof she needed to copyright the poem. It was later authenticated by forensic document examiner Kurt Schwalbe in 1997 using handwriting and materials analysis.