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“The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States. The lyrics come from “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in the Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.
The poem was set to the tune of a popular British song written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men’s social club in London. “The Anacreontic Song” (or “To Anacreon in Heaven“), with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States. Set to Key’s poem and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner”, it would soon become a well-known American patriotic song. With a range of one and a half octaves, it is known for being difficult to sing. Although the poem has four stanzas, only the first is commonly sung today.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” was recognized for official use by the Navy in 1889, and by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, and was made the national anthem by a congressional resolution on March 3, 1931 (46 Stat. 1508, codified at 36 U.S.C. § 301), which was signed by President Herbert Hoover.
Before 1931, other songs served as the hymns of American officialdom. “Hail, Columbia” served this purpose at official functions for most of the 19th century. “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee“, whose melody is identical to “God Save the Queen“, the British national anthem, also served as a de facto anthem. Following the War of 1812 and subsequent American wars, other songs would emerge to compete for popularity at public events, among them “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
Here is out National Anthem sung by the combined choirs of the Military Academies:
One of two surviving copies of the 1814 broadside printing of the “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, a poem that later became the lyrics of the national anthem of the United States.
National anthem of
|Lyrics||Francis Scott Key, 1814|
|Music||John Stafford Smith, 1780|