Author: Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key, portrait by katherine Walton, 1912, Maryland State Art Collection

Francis Scott Key (1779–1843), the author of America’s national anthem, was a Washington lawyer and amateur poet. During the War of 1812, Key was inspired to pen the verses of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by the unlikely success of American troops resisting the British attack on Baltimore’s Fort McHenry on September 13, 1814, two days after the burning of the capital. (In the fourth stanza of the anthem, Key urged the adoption of “In God Is Our Trust” as the national motto, which the United States officially adopted in 1956.) In addition to writing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Key defended Sam Houston during his trial in the US House of Representatives for assaulting a Congressman, and served as United States District Attorney from 1833–41.

The Star-Spangled Banner

Francis Scott Key

Why sing about a flag? Why should such a song be the American anthem? Examine Francis Scott Key’s lyrics and explore the meaning of the flag and its relation to the motto “In God is our trust.”