On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet, from Georgetown, Washington, D.C., wrote the lyrics to the United States’ national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
During the War of 1812, Key, accompanied by a British Prisoner Exchange Agent, dined aboard a British ship as guests. They were there to negotiate the release of prisoners but were not allowed to return to their own sloop because they had become familiar with the strength and position of the British units and with the British intent to attack Baltimore. Thus, Key was unable to do anything but watch the bombarding of the American forces at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on the night of September 13-14, 1814.
At dawn, Key was able to see an American flag still waving and reported this to the prisoners below deck. Back in Baltimore and inspired, Key wrote a poem about his experience, which was soon published. A music publisher adapted it to the rhythms of composer John Stafford Smith’s “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a popular tune Key had already used as a setting for an earlier song.
Though somewhat difficult to sing, the song became increasingly popular, competing with “Hail, Columbia” (1796) as the de facto national anthem by the Mexican-American War and American Civil War. More than a century after its first publication, the song was adopted as the American national anthem, first by an Executive Order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 (which had little effect beyond requiring military bands to play what became known as the “Service Version”) and then by a Congressional resolution in 1931, signed by President Herbert Hoover. (from Wikipedia)