Today I’ve got a beautiful calligraphy print of part of the Star Spangled Banner. Isn’t it lovely?
I really love this song, almost every time I hear it I get chills and just want to cry. Do you know the history behind the song? Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer, had boarded the flagship of the British fleet on the Chesapeake Bay in hopes of persuading the British to release a friend who had been arrested. Key was successful, but because he and his companions had learned about a planned attack on Baltimore, the British didn’t allow them to go. They let them return to their ship, but guarded them. On September 13, Key watched as the attack of Fort McHenry began. “It seemed as though mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone,” Key wrote later. But when darkness arrived, Key saw only red erupting in the night sky. Given the scale of the attack, he was certain the British would win. The hours passed slowly, but in the clearing smoke of “the dawn’s early light” on September 14, he saw the American flag—not the British Union Jack—flying over the fort, announcing an American victory.
Key put his thoughts on paper while still on board the ship, setting his words to the tune of a popular English song. His brother-in-law, commander of a militia at Fort McHenry, read Key’s work and had it distributed under the name “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” The Baltimore Patriot newspaper soon printed it, and within weeks, Key’s poem, now called “The Star-Spangled Banner,” appeared in print across the country, immortalizing his words—and forever naming the flag it celebrated. Nearly two centuries later, the flag that inspired Key still survives, though fragile and worn by the years. So amazing right? Now every time I hear this song I can feel the emotion he felt while writing those words. You can download a copy of the Star Spangled Banner Typography printable here.