The national anthem of the United States is popularly known by the name of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. It is based on a poem written by Francis Scott Key.
Soon after the independence of the United States, relations between Great Britain and US took a turn for the worse. These ultimately led to the War of 1812. In this war, the British initially made some notable gains. They even marched up on the capital city of Washington D.C and burned down much of the city. In 1814, the war was still going.
Francis Scott Key, a lawyer from Maryland, was sent by President James Madison for a prisoner exchange with the British. It was during this meeting that Key conceived the poem that eventually became the American national anthem.
When Key reached the British, he was kept on a British ship during the British attack on Baltimore. The British ships kept pounding Fort Covington of the city. They hoped to land on the cove and then launch a land assault.
However, the fort could not be taken and the attack was repulsed. Key was deeply inspired by the sight of the American flag flying high atop the fort amid all the bombing and the attack. The flag had 15 stars and 15 stripes.
While still on the ship, Key wrote down the poem on the back of a letter while still on the British ship. Once released, he finished the poem later and had it published. The poem was titled ‘Defense of Fort M’Henry’.
Francis Scott Key wrote the poem according to the tune of ‘The Anacreontic Song’. This was a popular melody at the time and traced its origins back to Britain.
Music composers soon saw the potential of turning Key’s poem into a song. The poem and the song were printed in the leading newspapers of Baltimore and soon became immensely popular. During the rest of the 19th century, the song became widely known and popular across all states. Many versions of the song came into being and it was frequently performed at public events.
Until the early 20th century, the Star-Spangled Banner was only unofficially used as the national anthem of the United States. In was in 1918 that a bill was introduced in the Congress to adopt the song as the national anthem.
The bill failed. In 1930, a public petition was launched to have the poem adopted as the national anthem. The petition attracted more than 5 million signatures. The issue was put to the floor in the House and finally passed by the U.S. Congress. On March 4, 1931, the Star-Spangled Banner became the official national anthem of the United States.
It is customary for all individuals in uniform to salute while the national anthem of the United States is playing. Others who are not in uniform are required to stand in respect and remove their hats. It is also customary for individuals to place their hands over their heart while the anthem is being played