The Star Spangled Banner

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Today in history

 

StarSpangledBannerIn 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote new words for a well-known drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” to celebrate America’s recent victory over the British. However, only in 1931, following a twenty-year effort during which more than forty bills and joint resolutions were introduced in Congress, was a law finally signed proclaiming “The Star Spangled Banner” to be the national anthem of the United States.

On March 3, 1961, ‘The Star Spangled Banner, became the national anthem of the United States of America. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was recognized for official use first, by the U.S. Navy in 1889 and by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. It took a twenty-year effort during which more than forty bills and joint resolutions were introduced in Congress. Finally, it became law and 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.

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 ‘drinking’ song written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men’s social club in London. “To Anacreon in Heaven” (or “The Anacreontic Song”), 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.

StarSpangledBanner2

With a range of one octave and one fifth (a semitone more than an octave and a half), it is known for being difficult to sing. Although the poem has four stanzas, only the first is commonly sung today.

 

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