On this day in 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed into law a bill making The Star Spangled Banner the national anthem of the United States. The lyrics were taken from a poem by attorney Francis Scott Key who was inspired to write after witnessing the Royal Navy’s bombardment of Fort McHenry while on board ship in Baltimore Harbor during the night of September 13-14, 1814. The bombardment was part of the Chesapeake Campaign during the War of 1812, the same campaign that had earlier resulted in the burning of Washington.
The poem, while immediately popular, and shortly afterwards set to music to a popular tune, was not the immediate choice for a national anthem. Serious congressional consideration of the matter only occurred during World War I when a joint resolution was introduced by Representative Louis T. McFadden in April 1918. During the next almost 13 years five additional bills would be introduced before H.R. 14, sponsored by Representative John Linthicum of Maryland, was finally approved by both the House and the Senate and presented to the president for his approval.
The flag that flew over Ft. McHenry and inspired Key is housed in a special display area at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. In the first years of this century scientists and technicians performed an extensive conservation project on the flag to preserve it for all Americans to see in its third century.