Francis Scott Key (August 1, 1779–January 11, 1843) was an American lawyer, novelist, and amateur poet from Frederick, Maryland, best remembered for composing the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Key's poem was published in 1814 in Baltimore with a brief introductory note describing how it had been suggested by the firing of guns in celebration of the victory at Yorktown. The poem quickly became popular throughout America and has since become synonymous with national pride and honor.
Key's father was a wealthy landowner who owned slaves and his mother was Scottish. He began writing poems at an early age and attended Harvard College for two years but did not graduate. After graduating he moved to Baltimore where he practiced law for several years. In 1800, he married Frances Anne Hopkins, daughter of a wealthy widow. They had four children together before she died in 1815.
In 1813, Congress asked citizens to write poems or songs about the war with Britain and Key submitted his work entitled "Defense of Fort M'Henry" which was chosen as the winner. He then traveled to Washington, D.C. to present his poem to President James Madison who was so impressed that he ordered the firing of guns after each stanza until Key finished it off with a final verse describing the view from Fort McHenry during a night illumination ceremony sponsored by the U.S.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" is a poem composed by Francis Scott Key in 1814 that serves as the United States of America's national anthem. After watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland by British ships in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812, Key, a 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, composed it. The song is often referred to by its first line: "Oh, say can you see."
Key wrote the poem within days of the attack. He submitted it to The Baltimore Sun for publication, but it was rejected as being too short. So he sent it to another newspaper, The National Intelligencer in Washington, D.C., which also declined to publish it. Frustrated, he decided to submit the poem himself, so it could be read by President James Madison and other government officials. It was accepted and published several weeks later.
Key died in 1843 at the age of 47. The poem is now regarded as one of the greatest American poems.
It was not until 1902 that Congress passed an act that provided for the appointment of a national anthem. Previously, each state had their own songs they would sing when entering or leaving a room, on ceremonial occasions, etc.
The current national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner", was adopted in 1931 by order of President Herbert Hoover. It had been written by William G. Rossman with a text by Irving Wardle.
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 Anderson My John."
Key wrote the poem after watching ships firing their guns during the Battle of Baltimore on September 12, 1814. He was imprisoned in England after his ship was taken by the British, but he was allowed to return to America because of his medical condition. He died in 1821.
The poem was first published in 1815 in the National Intelligencer with no music attached. It was not until many years later that Henry Wigington Stafford composed an English-language version of the song. This version was very popular in the United States and was taught in schools across the country. However, it was not until 1831 that William Billingsley added music to his version of the song. His music was adopted by the government as part of the Army Act of 1798 and has been used ever since.
Stafford's song was also used by the federal government as early as 1820. But it wasn't until 1831 that Billingsley's version became the legal tender.
Francis Scott Key On the back of a letter, Francis Scott Key penned "The Star Spangled Banner" and its first verse while observing the enormous American flag fluttering over the fort that morning. Back in Baltimore, he worked until he had finished four verses (only one of which is commonly known today). The song was then set to an old British military tune called "John Brown's Body."
Key sold the copyright for the poem to a newspaper for $250. He died poor and alone in Baltimore in 1843.
Today, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is recognized as our national anthem. It has been since 1931 when it replaced "God Save the United States and Canada."
Before that, it was "Hail Columbia" or simply "Columbia." It was chosen as our nation's official anthem in 1789 by Congress. "To be specific, Congress wanted a national anthem that would unite rather than divide its citizens," writes Kathleen M. Rigdon in "Anthems, Anthems: A History of Music as Symbol & State Enforcer". The choice was made even before there was a country to unify—instead, it was meant to celebrate the founding of the United States.
In addition to being our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner" has also become a popular patriotic song. It's been used as such ever since Key released it in 1814.