Star-Spangled Banner

September 12, 2022
A close-up photo of the American flag

Land of The Free

The backstory story of the song that became an anthem, as we mark the day of "the Rocket’s red glare, the Bombs bursting in air" 208 years ago.

Home of the Brave

Backstory

  • On the evening of September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key watched from a ship as a 25-hour battle between British and American forces took place.

  • Key described the evening as if “mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone.”

  • He assumed the British would win but instead woke up to see the American flag waving.

  • The experience inspired him to write lyrics that were later set to music and published under the name, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The National Anthem

  • "The Star-Spangled Banner" quickly became a patriotic song, played alongside other songs such as "Yankee Doodle."

  • It became "official" in 1931 when President Hoover made it the national anthem by law.

  • Controversy: Some critics believed the tune too similar to the theme song of the Society of Anacreon — a gentlemen's club that listened to "music of questionable tastes." The group's theme song included lyrics referring to love and alcohol. Separately, critics in the 1900's said it was ill-suited for the normal vocal range.

Why does "The Star-Spangled Banner" play before major sporting events? Baseball!

During WWI at the 1918 World Series (the Chicago Cubs vs. Boston Red Socks), "The Star-Spangled Banner" was played impromptu during the seventh-inning stretch, causing a surge of national pride amidst a challenging time (a year of war and pandemic!). The Red Sox later played the song in honor of wounded soldiers at their games. Soon "The Star-Spangled Banner" was regularly played before baseball games and a tradition was born. Other sports soon followed.

Francis Scott Key (National Park Service)

The Designation of the "Star-Spangled Banner" (History, Art & Archives, United States House of Representatives)

Short History of The Star Spangled Banner (American Battlefield Trust)

From the archives: History of the national anthem in sports (ESPN)

by Jenna Lee,

ImageImageImageImage