the year of LIVING UNOFFICIALLY

365 days of celebration

03
March

National Anthem Day

Posted by Brittany

National Anthem DayOn September 14, 1814 Frances Scott Key wrote the four stanza poem “Defence of Fort McHenry” after witnessing the bombardment of the fort during a British attack on Baltimore. Key was inspired by the sight of the oversized 30′ x 42′ American flag, with it’s 15 stars and stripes, flying triumphantly in the wake of the battle. In just a matter of days his patriotic poem had spread like wildfire. It was published in several papers and the lyrics were set to The Anacreontic Song, a popular british drinking song. The combination of the tune and Key’s lyrics became know as “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

In 1889 “The Star-Spangled Banner” was officially designated as the tune to be played during the raising of the flag, but it would be another 42 years before it became the United States national anthem. In fact, in 1929 Robert Ripley pointed out in his popular cartoon series that, “Believe It or Not, America has no national anthem”. Someone must have been paying attention, because on March 3, 1931 President Hoover signed a law declaring “The Star-Spangled Banner” the official national anthem of the United States of America. Now the anthem is one of the first songs American children learn during their school-aged years, and it’s sung at just about every sporing event and patriotic celebration.

Chris and I are lucky to live in a part of the country accessible to so many of our nation’s treasures. To celebrate National Anthem Day we visited the Star-Spangled Banner flag at it’s permanent home in theNational Museum of American History. I had seen the flag there in the 1990′s, when it was hung vertically, but I didn’t remember much about it other than that it showed a lot of wear at almost 200 years old, and it was huge. Chris thinks he may have seen it in the early nineties too, but he’s not sure — he would have been just a kid too. Either way, we were both impressed with the current exhibit, which was opened in 2008. The entry features a shimmering artistic representation of the flag, and opens up to a brief history of the events leading up to the composition of Key’s poem. After passing through the visual and interactive intro, visitors turn a corner into a dark corridor and come face-to-face with the historic flag in all it’s glory. The Star-Spangled Banner, reduced to only 30′ x 32′ in it’s old age, lies in dim lighting at a ten degree angle, housed behind a glass wall. In spite of the surface area that has been lost over the years due to damage or, shockingly, intentional removal, the flag is still massive — each of the fifteen stars measures two feet accross! It’s impossible to sit in front of the great giant and not be in awe — for it’s size, it’s history, and the spirit that it represents.

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