The Star-Spangled Banner is one of the most iconic songs in the United States. As the national anthem, it’s played at sports events, schools, military bases and other locations. Even if you’re familiar with its lyrics, though, there are probably some things you don’t know about The Star-Spangled Banner.
#1) It Was Written By a Lawyer
You might be surprised to learn that The Star-Spangled Banner was written by a lawyer. In 1814, American lawyer Francis Scott Key wrote The Star-Spangled Banner after observing a battle between British ships and the Continental Army during the Battle of Baltimore.
#2) It’s Named After the American Flag
The Star-Spangled Banner, of course, is a direct reference to the American Flag. During the Battle of Baltimore, Key watched as the American flag flew triumphantly amidst the massive volley of cannonballs. Key was actually taken hostage aboard a British ship. From the ship, he was able to watch as Fort McHenry came under siege.
#3) It Was Originally Called The Defense of Fort McHenry
Before it was known as The Star-Spangled Banner, the song was called The Defense of Fort McHenry. Key originally chose this name because of Fort McHenry’s significance during the Battle of Baltimore. However, he later renamed the song to The Star-Spangled Banner so that it better reflected the American flag. Since then, the song has been universally known as The Star-Spangled Banner.
#4) President Wilson Declared the Military to Play It
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation ordering the U.S. military to play The Star-Spangled Banner. It wasn’t long until other events adopted the song. In 1918, for example, The Star-Spangled Banner was played during the first game of the World Series. Since then, it’s become standard for baseball games, as well as other sports events, to play The Star-Spangled Banner.
#5) Only One-Quarter of It Is Typically Played
The Star-Spangled Banner consists of four stanzas. With that said, only the first stanza is typically played. As a result, most Americans don’t know the full version of The Star-Spangled Banner.
#6) You Should Stand and Face the American Flag When It’s Played
Because it’s recognized as the official national anthem in the United States, you should always stand and face the American flag when The Star-Spangled Banner is played. The U.S. Flag Code even contains a section titled “Conduct during playing,” stating that all men and women — with the exception of those in uniform — should stand and face the American flag while placing their right hand over their heart when The Star-Spangled Banner plays.