Today, in 1931, President Herbert Hoover signs a congressional act making “The Star-Spangled Banner” the official national anthem of the United States.
On September 14, 1814, the sun rose over Ft. McHenry in the midst of the Battle of Baltimore. It was then that those watching could see clearly that the Flag still stood over the fort; the defenses had held. When he saw it, Francis Scott Key wrote the words that would become our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.
Star Spangled Banner
An American lawyer and poet, Francis Scott Key, was on a mercy mission for the release of Dr. William Beanes, a prisoner of the British. Key showed the British letters from wounded British officers praising the care they received from Dr. Beanes. The British agreed to release Beanes, but Key and Beanes were forced to stay with the British until the attack on Baltimore was over. Key watched the proceedings from a truce ship in the Patapsco River. On the morning of the 14th, Key saw the American flag waving above Fort McHenry. Inspired, he began jotting down verses on the back of a letter he was carrying. When Key reached Baltimore, his poem, titled “Defence of Fort McHenry”. was printed on pamphlets by the Baltimore American.
His sloop alone in the bay, Francis Scott Key looked fearfully towards the shoreline. A breeze began to move across the water’s surface and the smoke of battle began to shift ever so slightly to reveal patches of blue sky. And then, in the distant blue there appeared new colors….red and white….brief glimpses of the two-feet wide stripes of the Star Spangled Banner.
Then a star appeared in the daytime sky, then another….then fifteen stars in the daytime. What a welcomed site they were. Mr. Key’s heart swelled with hope, and pride in the men who had so valiantly fought through the night to keep that flag flying. Reaching into his pocket he withdrew an envelope and began to write his thoughts:
Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
According to History.com, Key’s words were later set to the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a popular English song. Throughout the 19th century, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was regarded as the national anthem by most branches of the U.S. armed forces and other groups, but it was not until 1916, and the signing of an executive order by President Woodrow Wilson, that it was formally designated as such. In March 1931, Congress passed an act confirming Wilson’s presidential order, and on March 3 President Hoover signed it into law.