Today’s Birthday Boy is Hit Songwriter Francis Scott Key! Born August 1, 1779!

via National Museum of American History
via National Museum of American History


It’s time for a little bit of a history lesson as we travel back in time to celebrate the birthday of Francis Scott Key, the man who wrote the lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Key was born on August 1, 1779 in Frederick County, Maryland and, despite having a career as a lawyer, found fame through music.

It’s probably important that we focus on Key’s contributions to the musical world rather than on his law career because the latter greatly revolved around his pro-slavery attitude: He was well known for prosecuting members of society who were in possession of anti-slavery pamphlets. Despite his questionable judgement when it came to basic human rights, Key is still considered an exceptionally important figure in history.

Interestingly enough, Key didn’t set out to write the nation’s anthem. During the War of 1812, he was held captive on a British ship while they attacked Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. The morning after the battle ceased, Key spotted an American flag still erect and, naturally, decided to write a poem about his experience. The poem, which was titled “Defense of Fort McHenry,” was published in The Patriot on September 20, 1814. The poem was set to music and voila — “The Star-Spangled Banner” was born.

Key passed away from pleurisy in 1843, but his legacy remains. There’s the Francis Scott Key Monument in Baltimore, Maryland; two bridges, one in Virginia and the other in Washington, D.C. are named in his honor; and he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. It seems as though people choose to brush aside his contentious political beliefs (well, either that or they just don’t know about them). Nonetheless, it’s time to wish Francis Scott Key a happy, happy birthday!