Friday, July 15, 2016

The Francis Scott Key Key

Today I want to talk about a Key that is very important both in this museum and in our nation's history.

Francis Scott Key was born august 1, 1779 in Maryland. He became a successful lawyer and was later appointed to be the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

In the year 1812 the United States of America declared war on Great Britain due to a number of trade agreements. The British set fire to the White House, the Library of Congress, and the Capitol Building before setting their sights on Baltimore. In 1814, Key had gone to a ship off the coast of Baltimore to negotiate the release of his friend. He succeeded but was not allowed to leave the ship until the bombing of the Fort McHenry was over. He watched the whole thing from eight miles away. After a day of bombing, the British gave up. When the dust settled, Key saw the American flag still flying from the fort. He was so moved by the experience that he wrote a poem in tribute. The poem was printed in newspapers and eventually set to music. It was adopted as the national anthem March 3rd, 1931.

The flag that Francis Scott Key saw that night was made in 1813 by Mary Young Pickersgill in a building now known as the Baltimore Flag House. In 1936 when that house was being renovated, some of the original wood was carved into a wooden key with pictures of Francis Scott Key and the flag house on the front and the story of the house on the back. We acquired the key from Dudley P. Bowe, the president of the Star Spangled Banner Flag House Association in 1947.

The Francis Scott Key key is located in cabinet #7 in the Key Room. Make sure you take a look when you visit!

Until next time,