We are all familiar with the national anthem now, and our history classes have made sure we know that Francis Scott Key wrote it. However, you may be surprised about some of the history of the national anthem. In fact, it was never intended to be a song, not in the way it was written at first.
Francis Scott Key, the writer of the Star Spangled Banner, wasn't a musician, in fact, he was a lawyer. He was helping a friend of his who was captured by the British army during the War of 1812, and he went to negotiate his friend's release. Unfortunately, the British bombed Fort McHenry, and it was during this that Key witnessed one of the most iconic lines of this future anthem. Key saw the bombing and was relieved to see the lone American flag still flying, and wrote a couple of lines in a tribute to all he had seen while he was on a boat waiting the bombings out. The poem was titled "The Defence of Fort McHenry" and featured powerful lines including the "rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air," which is now a familiar line to Americans. However, little did he know that his poem would become so incredibly popular. It was printed in newspapers, and then wound up being set to the music of an English drinking song, "To Anacreon in Heaven" by a composer of the name John Stafford Smith. The song didn't have an official title, and it eventually began being referred to as the Star Spangled Banner, and in 1916, years after Key's death, it was determined that this would be played at all official events. Another 15 years later, it was officially adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931.
The history of the national anthem is interesting in the fact that it was never meant to be a national anthem, much like other things that came with the start of our nation. What started as an attempt to document the beauty of the lone American flag standing through the night despite the British attempt to destroy the fort and all that it stood for, became a symbol of strength and pride for our country. The soldiers who fought in that battle showed a certain resilience, and as Americans, we are proud to continue that tradition and play the Star Spangled Banner at official events with the unveiling of the flag. There have been many versions since, but there is something about the original rendition that will just fill the listener with pride.