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/.

WAMU 88.5

A WAMU Guide To The 2015 National Book Festival

Need some help navigating the schedule? We've come up with an agenda that highlights authors we’ve spoken with here at WAMU.

WAMU 88.5

Art Beat With Lauren Landau, Sept. 2, 2015

You can plan for dinner and a show (for a cause) or check out a reggae concert.

WAMU 88.5

Europe's Ongoing Migrant And Refugee Crisis And The Future Of Open Borders

The Austria-Hungary border has become the latest pressure point in Europe's ongoing migrant crisis. An update on the huge influx of migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa and the future of open borders within the E.U.

WAMU 88.5

Environmental Outlook: How To Build Smarter Transportation And More Livable Cities

A new report says traffic in the U-S is worse than it's been in years. But some say there are reasons to be optimistic. For this month's Environmental Outlook: how revitalized urban centers and new modes of transportation are changing how we get around our cities.

Leave a Comment

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