Explore Anglo-American history in 2014
Next year marks a major anniversary for Americans, with the USA’s anthem, ‘Star-spangled Banner’, turning 200.
But those who know their history will acknowledge it’s also a significant event for Brits, as the poem from which the song originated was penned in 1814 by American lawyer Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812.
The British link does not end there, however, as ‘Defence of Fort McHenry’, which begins with the immortal line “O! say can you see, by the dawn’s early light”, was then set to music composed by an Englishman, John Stafford Smith.
Smith’s ‘The Anacreontic Song’, was the official song of the Anacreontic Society, an 18th-century gentlemen’s club of amateur musicians in London, but in 1931 President Hoover signed it and Key’s words into law and it became the official national anthem of the USA.
So while 2014 will no doubt be a year of celebration for flag-waving Americans, there are plenty of reasons for Brits to head across the Atlantic and explore the shared history of the USA and the UK, and learn about how they went from enemies to long-standing allies.
The destination to make a beeline for is the USA’s Capital Region where the key events in the Star-spangled Banner’s history took place.
Start your odyssey at Fort McHenry where it all began in September 1814 during the Battle of Baltimore and take a tour of this appropriately star-shaped fortification. As you explore the battlements, put yourself in the shoes of Key as he witnessed “the rockets’ red glare” and “the bombs bursting in air”.
Then head to the National Museum of American History in Washington DC, where you can observe the original American flag that is the subject of Key’s poem.
Next year’s celebrations culminate in the Star-Spangled Spectacular taking place between 6 and 16 September 2014 in Baltimore – an event not to be missed.