O Say Can You See, that on March 3rd National Anthem Day commemorates the moment when, in 1931, "The Star-Spangled Banner" was adopted as the official national anthem of the United States.
A symbol of American patriotism, "The Star-Spangled Banner" makes the young and old stand with pride in their country, and everything it represents.
National Anthem Day is not a public holiday but instead, it is a time to remember that, Like the United States, the American National Anthem has a rich and exciting history.
National Anthem History
Before 1931, the United States did not have an official National Anthem, but "Hail, Columbia!" and "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" were often sung at official events.
The Star Spangled Banner was already a known song before it was chosen to be the American national anthem. It was widely used in a patriotic and military context, especially during the Civil War.
The lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner" originate from a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 entitled "The Defense of Fort McHenry", it took inspiration from the Battle of Baltimore.
The Battle of Baltimore
Francis Scott Key was an American lawyer and amateur poet who served in the Georgetown Light Field Artillery. In 1812, during the Battle of Baltimore between America and The UK, a friend of Key's was taken prisoner by the British. Key quickly traveled to Baltimore to negotiate for his release, which was granted by the British, but they were not allowed to leave before the British army bombarded Fort McHenry.
On September 13, 1814, for 25 hours, the British bombarded Fort McHenry with over 1500 cannon shots, during a strong storm of thunder and rain. It is claimed that the explosions could be heard as far as Philadelphia. Scott Key witnessed this attack aboard a ship that was eight miles away. Even after a whole day of attacking the fort, the British could not destroy it and so retreated. In the morning, Francis Scott Key was amazed to see the American flag still standing tall, undestroyed, on Fort McHenry. This inspired him to write a poem in tribute to the American flag and the country for which it stands, titled "The Defense of Fort McHenry".
Combining lyrics and score
Scott Key's brother-in-law discovered that the lines of the poem fit perfectly with John Stafford Smith's melody "The Anacreontic Song", so the poem was published in several newspapers with the note "to the tune of The Anacreontic Song". The song kept growing in popularity throughout the 19th century, and eventually became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner".
Many branches of the United States Armed Forces used "The Star-Spangled Banner" as their official song during the 19th century, and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed an order that stated the song should be played at military events in an official capacity. In 1930, Veterans of Foreign Wars petitioned for "The Star-Spangled Banner" to be recognized as the National Anthem of The United States. On March 3rd, 1931, Congress passed an act confirming "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the National Anthem, which was signed into law by President Hoover.
Since "The Star-Spangled Banner" was made into the National Anthem, it has become customary to stand while the anthem is being played. The military should salute the flag, while everyone else places their right hand over their heart while singing the national anthem.
The United States National Anthem Lyrics
Need a refresher on the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner"? While there are four verses in total, only the first verse is usually sung during events. Here are the lyrics for the first verse of the American National Anthem:
O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
How to Celebrate National Anthem Day
This day is all about uniting the country over shared ideals, the flag of the United States of America, and the past, present, and future that it represents.
Most people only know the first verse of "The Star-Spangled Banner", challenge yourself to try and learn the other three!
If you'd like to know more about the history of the national anthem, visit the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. A hiking trail that goes through Virginia, Maryland, and Columbia. Or perhaps visit the site of Fort McHenry, the birthplace of our national anthem.