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This Day In History: Francis Scott Key Composes the Lyrics To “The Star-Spangled Banner”

September 14, 2016

This day in history, September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key composed the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which would eventually become the American national anthem.

Key, an American lawyer, composed the lyrics after witnessing the massive British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Maryland during the War of 1812.

He watched the siege while under detainment on a British ship and penned the famous words after observing that the U.S. flag over Fort McHenry had survived the 1,800-bomb assault.

After circulating as a handbill, the patriotic lyrics were published in a Baltimore newspaper on September 20. Set to the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” an English drinking song written by the British composer John Stafford Smith, it soon became popular throughout the nation.

Throughout the 19th century, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was regarded as the national anthem by the U.S. armed forces and other groups, but it was not until 1916, and the signing of an executive order by President Woodrow Wilson, that it was formally designated as such. In 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed a Congressional act confirming Wilson’s presidential order.