It's played at the start of every baseball game, but how much do you actually know about our national anthem? It turns out "The Star-Spangled Banner" has a pretty interesting history.
1. It was inspired by a battle
Francis Scott Key had front row seats for the Battle of Fort McHenry, when British troops attacked Baltimore during the war of 1812. Key was taken prisoner by the British, and watched them shell the fort with warships and artillery all night (that's the "rocket's red glare" and "bombs bursting in air").
In the morning, he watched the American troops lift their flag over the fort, and was inspired to write a poem. His "Defense on Fort McHenry" was later set to music, and became "The Star-Spangled Banner."
2. There are actually 4 verses
You won't hear the other 3 verses before any football games, they've basically been forgotten over the years because they're not as catchy as the main tune. I mean, try singing along to this:
"On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep, Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?"
3. It's NOT the Betsy Ross flag
Visitors to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. can see the Fort McHenry flag on display, but they often get it mixed up with the Betsy Ross flag, or the original design of the American flag.
In fact the star-spangled banner was made by Mary Pickersgill, who sewed a large flag and small but tough "weather flag" for the fort. Key watched the weather flag waving during the night, while the larger flag was raised after the battle.
4. It took more than 100 years to become the Anthem
Before America finally picked a national anthem in 1931, songs like "Hail Columbia" and "America the Beautiful" were played at official events. A "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!" newspaper comic from 1929 pointed out the country had no official song, leading to a rush to pick one.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" was already a popular song, sung at 4th of July events and during parades, and in 1931 President Herbert Hoover officially made it the anthem.
5. The most popular version was...
Performed by Whitney Houston before Super Bowl XXV in 1991. The singer's take on the anthem was a definite crowd-pleaser, and actually reached spot #20 on the radio charts. The recording staged a comeback after 9/11, when it was played nonstop and actually reached #6.
Find out why the Queen sang along to the anthem only once on the next page!