Filed Under:

Even 'The Star-Spangled Banner' Had A First Draft

Monday will be the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812. Americans may not know much about that war, but they do know a song the war inspired: "The Star-Spangled Banner." The first scratches of those phrases are on display at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore.

The original quill-and-ink manuscript was written by Francis Scott Key. He wrote the lyrics while being held aboard a British ship. Trying to work out a prisoner release, he watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry — the rocket's red glare, bombs bursting in air.

The first draft has his edits in heavy, black ink.

"There are two corrections in it," says Burt Kummerow, president and CEO of the Historical Society. "The first one was in the very first line."

Where the song now says, "Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light," it originally had, "through the dawn's early light." The second edit is in the third stanza — today, usually only the first stanza is sung.

America's national anthem may have sounded familiar to some across the pond: It began as a British drinking song.

"Now, this is a polite drinking song," Kummerow says. "It's not one of these bawdy, everybody jumping on tables and stuff like that to sing."

Key was eventually set free after about two days with the British fleet. He finally penned "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Indian Queen Tavern, deep in the Maryland countryside.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


Kentucky Boy Solves Rubik's Cube In Record Time

A 14-year-old boy from Lexington, Ky., has solved a Rubik's Cube in less than five seconds. As Guinness World Records declares this a record-breaker, we hear how NPR covered a Rubik's Cube competition in 1981.
WAMU 88.5

Recipes Get A Makeover With GIFs, Science, And Emojis

On Food Wednesday, we explore the new ways recipes are being presented, with everything from GIFs to scientific method.

WAMU 88.5

International Military Action In Syria

French President Hollande meets with President Obama in Washington to seek additional U.S. support in the fight against ISIS in Syria, and NATO holds an emergency meeting over the downed Russian fighter jet: An update on international military strategy in Syria.


Used Rocket Is A New Breakthrough For Blue Origin's Space Plan

Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, has sent a craft past the edge of space and then landed its rocket safely – and vertically — in Texas.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.