Star-Spangled Banner

For all those of you who lie
In America
A Really Awful Rhyme I’ll try
That’s hysteri-ca-
Lly funny; for if there July,
And you are from the North,
To celebrate there’s reason why –
Get up, and do go Fourth!

Why have I chosen this picture to add to my wishes for a Happy Independence Day?

Because it has a fascinating history, and one which hilariously illustrates how the Americans and British have collaborated whether they like it or not.

On 8th September, 1814 Francis Scott Key, temporarily detained on HMS Tonnant after visiting the day before under a flag of truce to negotiate exchange of prisoners, saw the original ‘Star- Spangled Banner’ flying defiantly over Baltimore after a night of bombardment by the British.   The unique views, courtesy of his ‘hosts’, inspired him to start writing a poem, which he finished ashore.

His brother-in-law, Judge Joseph H Nicholson, observed that the words fitted a tune written by English composer John Stafford Smith, The Anacreontic Song, which had also been used in an earlier Key poem from which many of the words of the more recent version were taken.

The song became very popular and was played at many public events. Woodrow Wilson had it developed to present form by, among others, John Philip Sousa, and in 1916 ordered that it be played at official occasions. However, it only became the official National Anthem by order of President Herbert Hoover on 3rd March 1931.

So 117 years before, while at war with America, the British had unwittingly provided the impetus for the writing of the American Anthem, and had also provided the tune! 

© Colonialist July 2013 (WordPress)



About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies.
This entry was posted in History, Humour, Language, Poems, Really Awful Rhyme, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. optie says:

    Now that’s an interesting bit of history Col, thanks for sharing.


  2. Arkenaten says:

    Always nice to learn something. Enjoyable read, Mister N.


  3. That’s a wee bit of American / British history I did not know. So much intertwining and a good reminder that we are connected.


  4. bulldog says:

    An interesting piece of history…


  5. Ironic and fascinating… and I love the tune !!!


  6. Excellent post with inspired formatting, Col!


  7. Sonel says:

    Very interesting indeed Col and as usual your rhyme did the trick as I do so love them! 😀
    Thanks for sharing. 😀 *hugs*


  8. nrhatch says:

    When Kate did her post about The Shivering Timbers (“Don’t Give Up The Ship”) on 6/24, I left this comment:

    In an interesting twist of fate, we stumbled into a show on PBS about our National Anthem while waiting for a show hosted by Prince Charles about Queen Elizabeth II (featuring home movies of her life).

    Francis Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner during the War of 1812, while a “guest” on a British Battleship as it blasted Fort McHenry and Baltimore Harbor.

    At the end of the show this evening, as the Naval Academy Chorus sang about “the rockets red glare” and the “bombs bursting in air,” the camera panned away to reveal these words posted on the wall behind them: “Don’t give up the ship.”


    Now we’ve doubled back around again.


  9. Pussycat44 says:

    A nice bit of history from across the waters. I wonder if the Americans are aware of that story.


  10. adinparadise says:

    Fascinating little tidbit, Col. 🙂


  11. The Asian says:

    Interesting bit of history. So technically the Americans can’t claim it as a home grown thing 😉


  12. Colline says:

    It was interesting to read this little bit of history.


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