Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of The Star Spangled Banner

Fort McHenry FlagToday is the 200th anniversary of the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore. Our national anthem was a poem written by 35 year old Francis Scott Key in 1814. The British spent 24 hour plus bombarding Baltimore and Fort McHenry and Mr. Key was on a British ship in the harbor.

It was a rainy evening, but Key could see on occasion that the small storm flag was still visible at the Fort. The shell and Congreve rock bombardment continued during the night and as dawn arrived on September 14th Key could see that the smaller storm flag had been replaced by the larger flag. The next day on the back of a letter he was inspired enough by the site of the large flag of 15 stars and 15 stripes to write a poem based on his observances of the 13th and early 14th of September.

Mr. Key gave his poem to his brother-in-law who determined that the words would would fit the popular melody of the Anacreontic song by Englishman John Stafford Smith. It was the official song of the Anacreontic Society, a group of 18th century amateur musicians.

It was published in the Baltimore Patriot on September 20th, 1814 and became widely popular. It was soon published from Georgia to New Hampshire. It’s popularity continued and in July 1889 Secretary of The Navy Benjamin F Tracy signed General Order #374 making “The Star Spangled Banner” the official tune to be played at the raising of the flag.

The original flag that Francis Scott Key saw flying over the Fort is at Smithsonian’s Museum of History and Technology.

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