On this day in 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed a congressional act making “The Star-Spangled Banner” the official national anthem of the United States. Here are 5 things you probably never knew about “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The Melody Was a Drinking Tune in Two Countries An old British drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven” provided the tune for the American National Anthem and was regularly sung at a London social club during the 18th century. John Adams borrowed the tune for “Adams and Liberty,” which he used in his reelection campaign in 1800 against Thomas Jefferson. Although Jefferson won the election, the popularity of the tune used by Adams stuck with the American people. Eventually, it resurfaced as the melody to the National Anthem.
The Lyrics to the Song Came From a Poem Francis Scott Key was stirred to write a poem titled “Defense of Fort McHenry” on September 14, 1814, after he was detained on board a British ship during this battle in the War of 1812. The morning following a bombardment by the British that lasted more than 27 hours, Key spotted the American flag being raised over Fort McHenry. It was Key’s brother-in-law who connected the poem to the old British drinking song and had it printed in a Baltimore newspaper on September 20.
The First Sheet Music Had a Glaring Misprint Key penned the first verse of the poem on the back of a piece of correspondence and completed writing the poem once he returned to Baltimore. About a dozen copies survive of the original sheet music printed in 1814 and are notable because of a glaring mistake. In the subtitle of the sheet music, it reads “A Pariotic Song,” which contains an obvious misspelling.
A Cartoon Led to a Call for a National Anthem Americans can thank Robert Ripley, the American cartoonist who wrote “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!,” for encouraging the Congress to pass legislation naming a National Anthem. Many people wrote to Ripley after the cartoon appeared, and he urged them to write their congressmen. After Congress received a petition with five million signatures on it, they passed legislation naming “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the National Anthem. President Herbert Hoover signed the legislation into law in 1931.
The Song Was First Heard at a Sporting Event in 1862
Sports fans all know that the national anthem will be sung at sporting events; however, many don’t know that the first time it was sung was in Brooklyn, New York, at a baseball game in 1862, during the Civil War. However, the song hadn’t yet been designated as the national anthem, and wasn’t really a common occurrence at sporting events. That began to change on September 5, 1918, during Game 1 of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. By the time World War II rolled around, baseball and football teams were playing the national anthem as a show of patriotism, and the tradition continues to this day.