National Anthem

Star-spangled Banner, The

The Star-spangled Banner, American national anthem, beginning, "O say can you see by the dawn's early light." The words were written by Francis Scott Key, a young Washington attorney who, during the War of 1812, sailed to the British fleet to obtain the release of a captured American. Key was detained by the British and witnessed from ship the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the night of Sept. 13–14, 1814. Defended under the command of Major George Armistead, the fort withstood the attack, and the sight of the American flag flying at dawn inspired Key's verses, which were written on the way ashore in the morning. After circulating as a handbill, the lyrics were published in a Baltimore newspaper on Sept. 20, 1814. The tune was taken from the English popular song "To Anacreon in Heaven." Although the army and the navy had for some years regarded "The Star-spangled Banner" as the national anthem, its designation as such first became official by executive order of President Wilson in 1916. This order was confirmed by act of Congress in 1931. The large flag that inspired the anthem, with 15 stars and stripes and originally 30-by-42-ft (9.1-by-12.8-m), has been in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution since 1912.

See V. Weybright, The Star-spangled Banner (1935).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

FREE! The Star Spangled Banner: (Revised and Enlarged from the "Report" on the above and Other Airs, Issued in 1909)
Oscar George Theodore Sonneck.
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1914
America the Beautiful: The Stirring True Story behind Our Nations's Favorite Song
Lynn Sherr.
Public Affairs, 2001
Librarian’s tip: "The Anthem" begins on p. 81
War and American Popular Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia
M. Paul Holsinger.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "The Star Spangled Banner" begins on p. 51
Early American Sheet Music: Its Lure and Its Lore, 1768-1889
Harry Dichter; Elliott Shapiro.
R.R. Bowker Co., 1941
Librarian’s tip: "Star Spangled Banner" begins on p. 34
FREE! The Story of the American Hymn
Edward S. Ninde.
Abingdon Press, 1921
Librarian’s tip: "Francis Scott Key 1779-1843" begins on p. 134
The War of 1812: America at War
Miriam Greenblatt.
Facts on File, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "O'er the Land of the Free"
Confederate Music
Richard B. Harwell.
University of North Carolina Press, 1950
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Five "Farewell to the Star Spangled Banner"
O Say Can You Sing?
Kauffman, Bill.
The American Enterprise, Vol. 14, No. 7, October-November 2003
The Voice of Nations: European National Anthems and Their Authors
F. Gunther Eyck.
Greenwood Press, 1995
World Music: A Very Short Introduction
Philip V. Bohlman.
Oxford University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "National Anthems" begins on p. 99
FREE! Tchaikovsky and His Contemporaries: A Centennial Symposium
Alexandar Mihailovic.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "Tchaikovsky, the Tsars, and the Tsarist National Anthem"
Search for more books and articles on the national anthem