Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Today in American History: The Star Spangled Banner Adopted as National Anthem - 03/03/1969

Today in American History, March 3rd, 1931, "The Star Spangled Banner" was adopted as the American National Anthem.

The National Anthem is a much beloved song that everyone in America learns while growing up these days, but it wasn't always the case.  The lyrics of this song come from a poem written in 1814 by the 35 year old amateur poet, Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812.  Key wrote the poem, Defence of Fort McHenry, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy at Chesapeake Bay on September 13th and 14th in 1814.  Shortly after the poem gained popularity, it was set to the tune of the popular British song "To Anacreon to Heaven," written by John Stafford Smith for The Anacreon Society.  Once set to this catchy tune, the song was renamed "The Star Spangled Banner" and was instantly popular in America as a patriotic song.

The song was adopted on this day in 1931 as the official national anthem, but before that there were other songs used at official national events.  "My Country Tis of Thee" and "Hail Columbia" were very popular for this purpose for at these events.  It is worth nothing that the tune of "My Country Tis of Thee" closely resembles that of "God Save The Queen" and garnered a level of dislike among people at the time because of it.

"The Star Spangled Banner" was adopted by the United States Navy for official use in 1889, and President Woodrow Wilson was known to use it during his Presidency.  It was also played during Game One of the seventh inning stretch of the 1918 World Series.  It was adopted as the national anthem in 1931 and signed into being by President Herbert Hoover, with the rationale that it would help lift the spirits of the downtrodden American citizens during The Great Depression.

In 1929, Robert Ripley published one of his famous "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" cartoons that read, "America has no National Anthem, Believe It or Not!" and John Philip Sousa wrote in 1931, "it is the spirit of the music that inspires... as much as Key's soul-stirring lyrics."  The song that was inspired by Key seeing the image of the battered flag still waving above Fort McHenry is thought of as being particularly difficult to sing.  That is because it is an octave and one fifth, a semi-tone above an octave.

While we only sing one verse of the song traditionally, there are actually four verses to the original song.  Below are the full four verses of the song, followed by a fifth verse added during the Civil War.

O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The fifth verse added during the Civil War: 

When our land is illumined with Liberty's smile,
If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that dares to defile
The flag of her stars and the page of her glory!
By the millions unchained who our birthright have gained,
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.

Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also a lifelong baseball fan who has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

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