As we celebrate National Anthem Day, we wanted to take a look at the history of how our beloved national anthem came to be. We all know the importance of the national anthem, and few things instill pride in us like hearing the first few notes before an important event. But how well do you know The Star-Spangled Banner?
Despite the fact that the music existed before the United States was even a country, you’d think you would know it well. But there are a few facts that are still surprising to learn!
Below is a quick history of our country’s anthem. And, once you’ve finished your history lesson, be sure to sign up here to join other heroes across this great country that save money with Homes for Heroes!
“The Star-Bangled Banner” Wasn’t the First Title
It may sound surprising, but Francis Scott Keys didn’t name his famous anthem. In fact, it didn’t have a name until a music store made one for him!
Just a few days after his release from the cell where he scribbled the first draft, his lyrics were already gaining popularity. Many went so far as to print them on their vessels!
At first, a publication from Baltimore called the tune “The Defense of Fort M’Henry,” where the inspirational battle took place. It wasn’t until the following November that a music store in the city changed it.
Also located in Baltimore, there was a shop that was one of the first stores to sell the sheet music. They gave it the name of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and it has stuck ever since!
It Wasn’t the Original National Anthem
The United States had a rocky start towards launching a new country. Shortly after fighting for independence, the country participated in the War of 1812 before turning on itself during the Civil War.
However, in the meantime between independence and continued conflicts, we still hadn’t had time to pick an anthem! Our country wound up kicking a few tunes around, but none of them stuck.
In fact, it wasn’t until the Union chose the Star-Spangled Banner as their song when they battled the Confederates. But even then it still wasn’t official!
The song continued to gain traction after the Civil War as Union soldiers and supporters celebrated. But it wasn’t until a need arose in the early 1900s that President Wilson declared it the anthem of the armed forces and their ceremonies.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t until 1931 that the nation formally adopted the song as the national anthem. And, that was after 40 attempts at getting approval!
It Wasn’t an Original Song
Unlike other country’s anthems, the United States’ song isn’t an original tune. While Francis Scott Key did pen the lyrics, the theme itself comes from a different song.
Key was surprisingly not a lyricist, but a poet. His day job was as a lawyer from Washington D.C. sent to negotiate the release of a political prisoner when the battle began.
He wrote the lyrics as a snub to the British rather than as something to take seriously. In fact, the existing tune, To Anacreon in Heaven, was favorited among the English elite!
What’s interesting is the tune was nearly 40 years old by the time Key used it for his lyrics. It may count as an early version of song sampling!
Francis Scott Key Didn’t Get Imprisoned
To negotiate the release of the prisoner, surgeon Dr. Beanes, Key met the opposing side on their ship. Here, he was treated well to a nice meal where the terms of his release were getting negotiated.
However, the doctor would not get released until after the British attacked nearby Baltimore. It was apparent Key was there to witness the attack!
But, it was the tenacity of Baltimore that inspired Key to pen the lyrics recalling the attack. And within days, the words resonated with the Americans!
The Flag Was Not Still There
While the lyrics famously describe the U.S. flag as remaining tall through the blast of cannon fire, it appears it wasn’t, in fact, the same flag. But to his defense, Key was also relatively far from the flag he was describing.
The flag flying high above Fort McHenry was massive. Think of those enormous flags waving at your local car dealership!
But, unfortunately, in addition to contending with the bombs, the weather was not ideal. The flag got soaked through with rain, making it a hazard to the soldiers.
Once the battle stopped, they quickly pulled it down at dawn and replaced it with a dry one. It was this flag that seemingly appeared to have survived the night!
Regardless, it made for a passionate line in the song, and from that far out, how could he have known? Either way, the fort remained intact, and they had a spare flag to fly in their honor!
The Song is Much Longer
We all know the words to the Star-Spangled Banner. Or so we think!
However, the national anthem we’re all familiar with hearing before a game or event is just the first verse! Believe it or not, there are three more that follow!
All four verses end in the line “o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” And if we included the other three lines, we’d likely never start the match!
There was also a fifth verse included later, written by a separate author. The poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes, after the Civil War, penned a line that would denounce the Confederacy.
That final verse rarely gets included. And if it sounds a bit vindictive, it’s because Holmes wrote it against “the traitor that dares to defile the flag of her stars!”
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Hopefully, you learned something new about our national anthem. And if you’re an everyday hero, you should sign up to see how Homes for Heroes can serve you!
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