George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

Francis Scott Key

Writer of Star-Spangled Banner


Born in Terra Rubra (Frederick County, Maryland) on August 1, 1779, Francis Scott Key is the writer of the United States National Anthem (“Star-Spangled Banner”). Key was homeschooled until he was 10 years old before attending grammar school in Annapolis and later St. John’s College. He became a leading attorney in Washington and fought as a soldier in the War of 1812. Key served in the Georgetown Light Field Artillery.

It was Key’s involvement in the War of 1812 that led to his creation our National Anthem on September 13, 1814. Key saw the massive assault from the British on Fort McHenry and was astonished that the fort withstood the attack. The battle inspired Key to write the “Star-Spangled Banner.” In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson began playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at official events and President Herbert Hoover officially declared it as the U.S. National Anthem on March 3, 1931.

“My countrymen, we hold a rich deposit in trust for ourselves and for all our brethren of mankind. It is the fire of liberty. If it becomes extinguished, our darkened land will cast a mournful shadow over the nations. If it lives, its blaze will enlighten and gladden the whole earth.”

“Then, in that hour of deliverance, my heart spoke. Does not such a country, and such defenders of their country, deserve a song?”

The “Star-Spangled Banner” was set to the melody of a song called, “To Anacreon in Heaven.”


Key married Mary “Polly” Taylor Lloyd and had 11 children.


Key’s legal practice was in Georgetown, part of Washington, D.C., where he would eventually serve as a district attorney.

The famous flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814 is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

There were 15 stars and 15 stripes on the flag that flew over Fort McHenry when the “Star-Spangled Banner” was written. The two additional stars and stripes represented the addition of Vermont and Kentucky.