It was a few years after he wrote the society song that an American lawyer named Francis Scott Key penned a poem called ‘Defence of Fort M’Henry’ – about a British naval attack on Baltimore in 1812 – which would be fitted to the tune and published as ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ in 1814.
The newly-set tune became one of the young country’s most popular patriotic songs and over the years it would gain more prominence; the US Navy took it on as an anthem as early as 1889 and President Woodrow Wilson was a fan, waving the flag for it in 1916.
Other tunes vied for the top spot over the years, with ‘America the Beautiful’ and ‘My Country, ‘Tis of Thee’ (which has the same melody as ‘God Save The Queen’), both hugely popular patriotic songs then and now.
On 3 March 1931 congress signed a decree naming ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as the nation’s official anthem, today one of the most familiar national anthems in the world.
It was long-thought that the tune was simply a drinking song and it wasn’t until the 1970s that John Stafford Smith was identified as the anthem’s composer; a librarian in the US Library of Congress made the ‘discovery’.