The Star Spangled Banner Becomes the Official Anthem

Picture of American lawyer Francis Scott Key.
American lawyer Francis Scott Key (1779 - 1843), circa 1810. Key is best known for writing the words to the national anthem of the United States of America, 'The Star-Spangled Banner'. (Photo by FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

On March 3, 1931, U.S. President Herbert Hoover signed an act that officially made "The Star Spangled Banner" the national anthem for the United States. Before this time, the United States had been without any national anthem.

History of "The Star Spangled Banner"

The words of "The Star Spangled Banner" were first written on September 14, 1814 by Francis Scott Key as a poem titled, "The Defence of Fort McHenry."

Key, a lawyer and an amateur poet, was being detained on a British warship during the British naval bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. When the bombardment subsided and Key witnessed that Fort McHenry was still flying its huge American flag, he began writing his poem. (Historical Note: This flag was truly huge! It measured 42 by 30 feet!)

Key recommended that his poem be sung as a song to the popular British tune, "To Anacreon in Heaven." It soon became known as "The Star Spangled Banner."

Becoming the National Anthem

"The Star Spangled Banner" was published in a number of newspapers at the time, but by the Civil War it had become one of the most popular patriotic songs of the United States.

By the late 19th century, "The Star Spangled Banner" had become the official song of the U.S. military, but it wasn't until 1931 that the United States made "The Star Spangled Banner" the official national anthem of the country.

Believe It or Not

Interestingly, it was Robert L. Ripley of "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" that spurred the interest of the American people to demand "The Star Spangled Banner" to become the official national anthem.

On November 3, 1929, Ripley ran a panel in his syndicated cartoon stating that "Believe It or Not, America has no national anthem." Americans were shocked and wrote five million letters to Congress demanding Congress proclaim a national anthem.

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "The Star Spangled Banner Becomes the Official Anthem." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2021, February 16). The Star Spangled Banner Becomes the Official Anthem. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Jennifer. "The Star Spangled Banner Becomes the Official Anthem." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 31, 2023).