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Star-Spangled Banner


"STAR-SPANGLED BANNER." In 1931 Congress passed legislation making "The Star-Spangled Banner" the national anthem of the United States. The song began as a poem written by the amateur poet Francis Scott Key on 14 September 1814. On that morning Key was looking at the smoke rising from Fort McKinley in Baltimore, which had just endured twenty-five hours of British attack. Through the smoke Key caught sight of the large garrison flag still flying, and this image inspired him to jot a few lines down on the back of a letter.

Key lengthened and revised the poem, and the next day it was published as a broadside with Key's recommendation that the words be sung to a tune he liked, the popular British song "To Anacreon in Heaven." Soon the poem appeared in several newspapers along the East Coast. Shortly thereafter Thomas Carr's music store in Baltimore published the words and music together under the present title. The song had become popular by the start of the Civil War and was frequently played on patriotic occasions. Members of the Maryland State Society, members of the U.S. Daughters of 1812, and Congressman J. Charles Linthicum of Baltimore are credited with bringing about the legislation that made the song the national anthem. The original flag that inspired Key is preserved at the Smithsonian Institution.


Meyer, Sam. Paradoxes of Fame: The Francis Scott Key Story. Annapolis, Md.: Eastwind Publications, 1995.

Connie AnnKirk

See alsoWar of 1812 .

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