The War of 1812 is known for many things, but one of the most memorable is the Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814 at Fort McHenry to write the song that would become our national anthem. Knowing the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" is one thing, but how much do you know about the song itself? Here are five historical facts about our national anthem that may surprise you.
1. It was written with its current melody in mind.
It is commonly believed that Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner" as a poem that was later set to music, but this is not the case, according to Dr. David Hildebrand, the director of the Colonial Music Institute.
"The structure doesn't match any poem," Hildebrand says about Key's words.
Early copies of "The Star-Spangled Banner" simply included the lyrics because the tune was already so well known, Hildebrand explains.
Another interesting fact: Key's original title was called the "Defence of Fort McHenry."
2. It has male glee club origins.
Some rumors suggest that "The Star-Spangled Banner" was set to the tune of an old drinking song, but the tune has nothing to do with the consumption of alcohol, Hildebrand says. In fact, the drinking songs of yesteryear were more aristocratic male glee club and less "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall."
The origins for "The Star-Spangled Banner" came from "The Anacreontic Song" -- a theme song of sorts composed by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, an 18th century amateur musicians' club for men. "The Anacreontic Song" is also sometimes called "To Anacreon in Heaven," which is also the opening line.
3. It is one of many songs written to the same music.
About a hundred different songs have been written to the melody of "The Anacreontic Song," Hildebrand says.
Key himself had already written words to the melody about nine years before the Battle of Baltimore, and this version opened with:
"When the warrior returns, from the battle afar, To the home and the country he nobly defended..." A patriotic ditty called "Adams and Liberty" was popular around the turn of the 19th century.
After Thomas Jefferson took power, a set of lyrics entitled "Jefferson and Liberty" were penned.
4. The smaller flag was likely flying "at the twilight's last gleaming."
Historians believe that the famous flag -- incredibly large at 30 by 42 feet -- wasn't flying the night of the attack. Hildebrand explains that it was pouring rain, so Fort McHenry was probably displaying a smaller storm flag (17 by 25 feet long).
Mary Pickersgill was asked to sew the two flags for the fort, making her, not Betsy Ross, the woman behind the star-spangled banner flag.
Hildebrand says this does not undermine the significance of the flag or the anthem, and the grand flag was flying "by the dawn's early light."
The large flag is now part in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., but the whereabouts of the storm flag are unknown.
5. It didn't become the official national anthem until 1931.
While "The Star-Spangled Banner" was popular during the 1800s, the song didn't become the national anthem until the early 1930s. The military had adopted it for ceremonial purposes decades earlier, but it took legislation signed in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover to make it official.
Want To Change The National Anthem To R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)”?
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances. For example, if you think that Francis Scott Key’s “Star Spangled Banner” is hackneyed and unsingable and no longer fit to represent our great country, you have the right to petition the government to change the National Anthem to something more appropriate.
A recent petition on the White House website, titled “We petition the Obama administration to: change the national anthem to R. Kelly’s 2003 hit “Ignition (Remix)” lays out the following proposal:
We, the undersigned, would like the Obama administration to recognize the need for a new national anthem, one that even a decade after its creation, is still hot and fresh out the kitchen. America has changed since Francis Scott Key penned our current anthem in 1814. Since then, we have realized that after the show, it’s the afterparty, and that after the party, it’s the hotel lobby, and — perhaps most importantly — that ’round about four, you’ve got to clear the lobby, at which point it’s strongly recommended that you take it to the room and freak somebody. President Obama: we ask you to recognize the evolution of this beautiful country and give us an anthem that better suits the glorious nation we have become.
This cause only needs 95,329 more signatures to meet the goal of 100,000 by Apr. 2. At that point, the White House will have to respond, just as it had to respond to the petition to begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.
This is truly ridicules; I can understand young people seem to HATE old things. However, this is the National Anthem of this country, there is a reason why Francis Scott Key choose the words he did. It was after all the war of 1812, and
was a budding nation that was still trying to find ground to stand on and
become a nation not ruled by a king. Do we really want something such as the National
Anthem that means so much, changed to something that means so little? America
Music is a form of self expression, and is a right covered by free speech, but does that right give us the right to change the National Anthem? To many countries were already the laughing stock of the world, changing the National Anthem to a rap song will only add fuel to the fire of nations that already hate us because were a nation of freedom.