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Bombardment of Fort McHenry, oil on canvas by Alfred Jacob Miller, ca. 1828-1830

After witnessing the British bombard Fort McHenry, Baltimore, through the night of September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote a poem of joy that the American flag was still flying at dawn. Set to a British melody, Key’s poem “The Star Spangled Banner” became a popular patriotic song.

 

Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, 1901.2.3

Bombardment of Fort McHenry

The National Anthem

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” a song based on a poem by Francis Scott Key, was inspired by the American flag during the War of 1812. It became the United States’ national anthem through the efforts of Representative John Linthicum of Maryland. Linthicum introduced his bill in the House of Representatives in 1929. Bolstered by petitions, letters, and telegrams from around the country, he pressed for its passage, saying that an anthem would be an expression of patriotism. In 1931 Congress officially designated the song as the national anthem.

O say does that star spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

- “Star-Spangled Banner,” National Anthem of the United States