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Dates That Matter

March 3, 1931

Congress adopts the Star Spangled Banner as the National Anthem.

 Why does it matter?

Most people think the Star Spangled Banner has been the National Anthem for a long time, but officially, it has had that honor for only about 80 years. Prior to that the US did not have a National Anthem. The words were written by Francis Scott Key while he watched a battle near Ft. McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. The tune is a traditional British song called "To Anacreon in Heaven." (Anacreon was an ancient Greek poet, famous for his drinking songs, and the tune "To Anacreon in Heaven" was probably a drinking song itself.) There are those who would prefer a different National Anthem, partly because the Star Spangled Banner is so difficult to sing, and partly because the words (particularly in the later verses) make reference to war. Other patriotic songs like "America the Beautiful" and "America" have been suggested.

For more information...

The Star Spangled Banner
The Smithsonian's site featuring the original Star Spangled Banner. Most of the site features the flag itself, but there is a section on the song that it inspired.

A biography of Francis Scott Key, the author of the words to the National Anthem.

Star Spangled Banner
Images of the original score of the Star Spangled Banner, and Key's hand written lyrics for the song.