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 http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Why Did Vanity Fair Give 'Belfies' A Stamp Of Approval?

"Selfie" may have been the 2013 word of the year. But "belfies," or "butt selfies" are now in the spotlight. We learn more about why they earned a fitness model a spread in Vanity Fair magazine.
NPR

Chili Say What? Linguistics Help Pinpoint Pepper's Origins

It turns out the first chili peppers were grown by humans in eastern Mexico. And it's not the same region where beans and corn were first grown, according to new ways of evaluating evidence.
NPR

Obama: Affordable Care Act Enrollment Hits 8 Million

At a White House briefing, the president says of the ACA, "this thing is working" and urged Republicans to stop trying to repeal the law.
NPR

Why Did Vanity Fair Give 'Belfies' A Stamp Of Approval?

"Selfie" may have been the 2013 word of the year. But "belfies," or "butt selfies" are now in the spotlight. We learn more about why they earned a fitness model a spread in Vanity Fair magazine.

Leave a Comment

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