American Topics

American National Anthem

Whether you hear it sung by school children, by a celebrity at a baseball game or by a professional choir, the American national anthem is a truly awe-inspiring piece of music that brings to mind the strength and history of the people of United States.

Originally written by Francis Scott Key as a poem inspired by a 1814 military attack on Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, the words to the American national anthem were likely metered to match an old English song called ‘To Anacreon in Heaven’. Now familiar around the world, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was legislated as the official American national anthem in 1931.

The star-spangled banner in the anthem refers, of course, to the United States flag that now also carries that name. During the War of 1812, Fort McHenry’s commander, Major General George Armistead, commissioned the creation of a large American flag, 30 feet high by 42 feet wide. He wanted an imposing flag that would identify his position, and that would be visible from afar.

When British forces attacked the fort in 1814, Key witnessed the battle. After enduring the uncertainty of a long night of fighting, he was relieved to spot the fort’s massive flag still flying the next morning. His joy and relief moved him to begin writing the verses that now make up the American national anthem.

Key finished the four verses of his poem within days of the attack, but made occasional changes as he produced hand-written copies. Different editors and writers have also made changes to the spelling, punctuation and words of the poem making it difficult to identify the real, original text.

Regardless of any changes the poem and resulting anthem may have undergone, the message of hope and victory remains strong. Even in today’s generation, which tends to eschew the lessons of history, the American national anthem is still sung with the same fervor and conviction it inspired in its earliest days.

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