On June 14, 1777 the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the U.S. flag. Nearly 40 years later to the day, on September 13, 1814, a poem was written about the American Flag, which was later set to music and became America’s national anthem in 1931.
Francis Scott Key penned “The Defence of Fort McHenry” after witnessing the British bombarding Fort McHenry in Maryland, during the War of 1812. The memory of a lone U.S. flag flying over the fort at dawn the next day, symbolized to Key that America held out. It survived, again. And that pride and encouragement is what most Americans remember when they sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” today.
And the rocket’s 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?”
In 2014, the 200 year anniversary of the anthem, a Rasmussen Reports poll showed that Americans remain intensely loyal to The Star Spangled Banner.
- 78 percent of Americans don’t want to change the national anthem,
- 90 percent of Americans said they know the words to the anthem, and
- only 14 percent think it’s too hard to sing; (77% don’t).
In 1814, the poem was printed in newspapers and later set to the music of a popular English drinking song sung in pubs called “To Anacreon in Heaven.” But, Americans began referring to it as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson announced it should be played at all official events.
The Star Spangled Banner was adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931. Today, the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1914 is housed at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
The closing stanza embodies the spirit of America best:
O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d 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.