Banner Moments: A Quick History of Francis Scott Key's Anthem


On Thursday, September 12 in honor of Star Spangled Music Day, a dazzling exhibit will open in celebration of the #Anthem200 anniversary. Titled “Banner Moments: The National Anthem in American Life,” the exhibit features items from collections drawn across the University of Michigan’s archival holdings, including one of the dozen or so surviving copies of the first sheet music publication of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” rare souvenir pressings of Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock Anthem, and programs and artifacts from Wolverine Football history. The exhibit is housed in the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library on the University of Michigan’s Central Campus in the north lobby, Room 100 Gallery, and Audubon Room.

It runs through mid-December, but kicks off with a 4:00 p.m. concert featuring students and faculty of the University’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Musicologist Mark Clague, librarian Jamie Vander Broek, and Art & Design student Grace Rother collaborated on the exhibit.
In anticipation of the celebration, we feature select “Banner Moments” here. These are events that mark significant turning points in the history of Francis Scott Key’s song and the nation which, since 1931, it officially represents. While celebrating the contribution of the song to the creation of national community, the exhibit also explores more troubling aspects of the song as well as its use in social protest through themes of coercive and critical patriotism. Check back each day for the next installment—dates discussed will include (see if you can guess the topic in advance!):

  1. August 1, 1779—Francis Scott Key is born.
  2. October 3, 1787—First Documented Performance of the Melody
  3. August 19, 1813—Garrison Flag Delivered to Fort McHenry
  4. September 14, 1814—Francis Scott Key Is Inspired by Vision of McHenry Flag
  5. July 4, 1861—Holmes adds Civil War Verse to the Anthem
  6. January 8, 1917—Key’s Song Recognized as “National Anthem” by the U.S. Military
  7. March 3, 1931—Key’s Song Named Official U.S. Anthem by Congress
  8. October 16, 1968—Protest Salute during Olympic Medal Ceremony (Critical Patriotism)
  9. August 18, 1969—Jimi Hendrix Plays “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock
  10. Today—????