Civic Calendar: Remembering Francis Scott Key and 'The Star-Spangled Banner' on Aug. 1
by Kathleen McCoy |
The Forty-Ninth State Fellows Program calls the attention of the University community to the anniversary of the birth of Francis Scott Key, author of the words of the U.S. national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," on Aug. 1, 1779.
On the evening of Sept. 13, 1814, during the War of 1812, Key, an attorney assisting in a prisoner exchange, dined on board the British ship HMS Tonnant in Baltimore harbor. The Tonnant was to participate in a shelling of Ft. McHenry that night, part of a British attack on the city, so Key, his companion and the prisoner they had come for were detained on board the ship.
The attack was unsuccessful, as Key learned in the morning when he saw the U.S. flag still flying over the fort. On his return from the Tonnant, he imagined the poem named "The Star Spangled Banner" when set to the tune of an earlier song, "To Anacreon in Heaven."
Long accepted unofficially, this song became the national anthem by executive order in 1916 and by congressional resolution in 1931.
Key continued to practice law until his death in Baltimore on Jan. 11, 1843. Key was a distant cousin of the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (Frances Scott Key Fitzgerald).