"The Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem of the United States. The words of this song were inspired by a poem penned by Francis Scott Key in 1814 titled "Defence of Fort McHenry." During the War of 1812, he was watching British ships pound Fort McHenry in Chesapeake Bay when he composed the poem. The song was first published two years later in September 1916 with the help of Thomas Bradley and William Schuman.
Key's original text only had six stanzas but today's version contains nine. The third stanza was added in 1931 when the nation again found itself fighting against Britain alone after the signing of the Treaty of Washington ended the Spanish Civil War. The fourth stanza was written in 1955 by John Philip Sousa Jr. who was known for his marches and popular songs. He died just five days before his sixty-second birthday. The fifth stanza was written by Michael W. Smith and first appeared on his album Brave New World in 1993. It addresses the dangers of nuclear war and has become one of his most famous songs.
The last stanza was written by Mary Beth Musselman and first appeared in a 1995 episode of NBC's television series Heroes. It tells how the song came to be the national anthem: "So through rain and wind and darkness we watched as one by one each flag fell from its pole. And then at last our own red, white and blue was left behind.
Francis Scott Key writes a poem on September 14, 1814 that is eventually adapted to music and becomes America's national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," in 1931. The poem, originally titled "The Defense of Fort M'Henry," was written after Key watched the British bombardment of the Maryland fort during the War of 1812. In his poem, he described what he had seen as "a sight to see" that caused him to write the poem now known worldwide.
Key lived through the war, which ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. He served in the United States Congress from 1805 to 1815 and was elected mayor of Baltimore in 1808. After the war, he resumed his work as a lawyer but died at the age of 42 in 1843.
The poem makes no direct reference to the war, but its publication in the Baltimore Patriot on May 28, 1814 (the same day as the first major battle of the war, at Bladensburg) may have helped spread awareness of it. The poem was also likely read by many people who took part in the war or lived through parts of it. For example, President James Madison is reported to have read the entire poem out loud to his secretaries before they went to sleep at night so they would not be disturbed by any mistakes Key might have made.
Key used poetic language to express his feelings about what he had seen and his desire for peace to return to Washington.
After being delighted that the United States had escaped British assault, Francis Scott Key penned the "Star-Spangled Banner" as a joyful poem. Since then, it has grown into the United States' national anthem, and it is played at official ceremonies, schools, and athletic events. The song is based on a European military tune called "John Brown's Body."
Key wrote the poem after watching ships burn during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. He was imprisoned in England for debt and unable to return to America. In order to keep himself occupied, he wrote about his experiences in Europe. He used information from other prisoners to write about the battle itself. The next year, Congress appointed a committee to choose an American national anthem, and they chose this poem by Key instead of one written by Thomas Campbell.
In 1815, Congress ordered that the poem be set to music in order to present the American people with an anthem they could celebrate, rather than just listen to. The lyrics were set to a popular British folk song called "The Roast Beef of Old England." This version became the first American national anthem when it was adopted in 1789.
Later that year, Key returned to America and settled down in Maryland. He died in 1843 at the age of 69. But the "Star-Spangled Banner" continues to inspire Americans today with its stories of country pride and patriotism.
Based on its use before sporting events, an old joke goes that the second stanza of the "Star Spangled Banner" is the chief umpire's call: "Play Ball!" The real flag depicted in the poem has survived, and it is rather huge even now.
Francis Scott Key writes a poem that is eventually put to music and becomes America's national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," on this day in 1814. After witnessing the British attack of the Maryland fort during the War of 1812, Key wrote "The Defence of Fort McHenry."
Francis Scott Key wrote the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" on September 14, 1814, after watching the enormous nighttime British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Maryland during the War of 1812. The song was first publicly sung at a military parade in Baltimore on March 5, 1815.
Key had been hired as a clerk by the secretary of the Navy to help write an account of the battle for publication in newspapers back home. But when news of the victory didn't appear in his newspaper, he decided to compose a poem about it instead. "The Star-Spangled Banner" was quickly adopted by supporters of the United States as their official anthem. It has since become one of the most popular patriotic songs in the world.
Key never sought recognition for the song. But after his death in 1843, members of the U.S. government who wanted to honor him for his work created the Francis Scott Key Award, which is given out annually to individuals or groups that have contributed significantly to American culture through music composition or performance. The award was established by Congress in 1986 and is administered by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Key's original manuscript of "The Star-Spangled Banner" is part of the collections of the Harvard University Library. His family donated it to the university after his death.
On September 14, 1814, American soldiers at Fort McHenry in Baltimore flew a massive American flag to commemorate a major victory against British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of the "wide stripes and dazzling stars" inspired Francis Scott Key to create a song that became the national anthem of the United States.
The first four stanzas of "The Star-Spangled Banner" are used as an anthem, with variations, at many events including inaugurations, military ceremonies, and college football games. It also serves as the theme song for the television show America's Flaglerade.
Key had no idea that his poem would become the national anthem until much later. However, he may have been influenced by other poems that were already being used as anthems. For example, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" was written by George M. Hopkins after the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. This poem was adopted as the official anthem of Pennsylvania in 1788.
Another possible source could be "My Country 'Tis of Thee" which was written by John Adams in 1814 to celebrate the return of American prisoners from Britain. This poem is still used as an anthem today.
Finally, there is a connection between Key's poem and the current version of the anthem.