Francis Scott Key Records History—In More Ways Than One

As I watched the “rockets red glare” of fireworks celebrations across the area this weekend, I thought about Francis Scott Key’s masterful description of the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in September of 1814. Recording incredible, historic events as he saw them unfold before his eyes, one might say Key was “twittering”—some 200 years before the concept was even conceived.

Certainly, even then, his masterpiece was presented to the masses through a range of mediums (dare we say, a multi-platform approach). First written as a poem titled: “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” Key’s work was published in “The Baltimore Patriot” newspaper before being transposed into its most famous incarnation: a song—all within days of the battle. Originally sung to the tune of “Anacreon in Heaven,” a Baltimore actor renamed it during a public performance the very next month to, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

After its meteoric rise to fame, it was another 117 years before “TSSB” became our national anthem in 1931. And, by the way, our “banner yet waves”—Since May 30th, 1949, a flag has flown continuously, by a Joint Resolution of Congress, over the monument marking the site of Francis Scott Key’s birthplace, Terra Rubra Farm, in Keymar, Maryland.