Monday, September 14, 2009

Oh, Say Does that Star-Spangled Banner yet Wave? – Francis Scott Key composes the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner”

On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key composed the lyrics to “The Star- Spangled Banner.”

Francis Scott Key famously composed “The Star-Spangled Banner” after witnessing the British attack on Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. From his position, he could see the flag throughout the night through the light of the attacks. He waited until morning to see if the American flag was still flying, signifying that the Americans had maintained control of the fort through the night. When he saw that the American standard still flew proudly over the fort after dawn, he was moved to compose lyrics to be sung over a familiar air at the time in order to commemorate the occasion.

Visit the Francis Scott Key organization here for more information about Francis Scott Key and for a full transcript of the original lyrics (the lyrics originally included 4 verses, of which only the first is traditionally sung)

“The Star Spangled Banner,” was ordered played by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 at military and naval occasions. It was not designated the national anthem by an Act of Congress until 1931.

Enjoy the U.S. Army band playing our national anthem:

The flag that flew over Fort McHenry and inspired Francis Scott Key to compose lyrics in its honor was the subject of a lengthy restoration at the Smithsonian. Now with the restoration complete, the Smithsonian has created a cool website to show it off. One feature lets you explore the flag in great detail, and explains the decals and other markings on the flag. Click here to check it out.

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