View Francis Scott Key's Star-Spangled Banner in the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center!

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Exhibit Details

To commemorate the Star-Spangled Banner bicentennial, Mount Vernon has partnered with the Maryland Historical Society to display Francis Scott Key’s original draft of this poem in the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center.  This special October-long exhibition of the manuscript will be surrounded by panels describing Mount Vernon during the War of 1812, at the time the poem was written.  

On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key spent the night on board a ship at Fort McHenry, Maryland, watching as the British bombarded Baltimore. At dawn, he spied the still-waving American flag in the distance, signaling an unlikely victory. Inspired, he penned a poem, “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” which would later become America’s national anthem.

Although Key’s poem was written fifteen years after Washington’s death, the song itself is based on a popular tune that the General likely would have recognized. The melody, called “To Anacreon in Heaven,” or the “Anacreontic Song,” was first heard in London in 1776. Before Key set his famous poem to this familiar tune, it was commonly used in a song called “Adams and Liberty,” which offered a musical defense of John Adams. The song was also re-written in 1793 to carry lyrics supporting the French Revolution.

Image: The Star Spangled Banner Manuscript, 1814. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

Exhibit Dates

October 1, 2014 - October 31, 2014.


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Included in admission.

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