There are a number of books readily available, either in print or through used and free ebook sources, that can inform your deeper exploration of the history of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” including its author and the War of 1812. Here are a few recommendations with links to possible sources. By purchasing any of these books through our links to, the Star Spangled Music Foundation receives a small commission that supports our work.

Books about Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key: Life and Times

by Edward S. Delaplaine

This is a reprint of a 1937 biography–the best available to date. You can also find copies of the original edition for around $100 through

Francis Scott Key, Author of “The Star Spangled Banner”; What Else He Was and Who

by Francis Scott Key Smith

This 1907 biography was written by Francis Scott Key Smith, a descendant and offers a useful but somewhat polished portrait of the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This source is especially helpful in reviewing Key’s legal career. The book is available for free via GoogleBooks as an ebook/pdf (just click in the image above to explor) or in various reprint editions through Amazon (click here). You can also find first editions of the actual book on for around $80–100.

Snow-Storm in August:
Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835

by Jefferson Morley

A wonderful and readable exploration of a single dramatic moment from Francis Scott Key’s life — the Washington D.C. race riot of 1825 — that examines Key’s complex attitudes on race in America. One of the strongest researched project’s on Key’s life to date. Also available in paperback.