Oh Say Can You See that on March 3rd National Anthem Day commemorates the day when, in 1931, "The Star-Spangled Banner" was adopted as the United States' National Anthem. A symbol of American patriotism, "The Star-Spangled Banner" makes young and old stand proud of their country, and everything it represents. Like the United States, the American National Anthem has a rich and interesting history of how it came to be.
National Anthem History
The United States' National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner", was originally a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 which was titled "The Defence of Fort M'Henry". However, it was only on March 3rd, 1931, that President Herbert Hoover signed a law making "The Star-Spangled Banner" the official national anthem of the United States.
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.
Francis Scott Key was an American lawyer and amateur poet, serving in the Georgetown Light Field Artillery. In 1812, during the war between the United States and Great Britain, 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 were unable to destroy it and retreated. In the morning, Francis Scott Key was amazed to see the American flag still standing proud, 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 Defence of Fort M'Henry".
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 started a petition for "The Star-Spangled Banner" to be recognized as the United States' National Anthem. 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 is the law to stand while the anthem is being played. The military should salute the flag, while everyone else must have 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 patriotic ideals, the flag of the United States of America, and the history and ideals 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.