Happy Birthday to “The Star-Spangled Banner” becoming America’s National Anthem

My well-loved and well-read book.

March 3rd, 1931.  “The Star-Spangled Banner” becomes America’s National Anthem.  Wait…1931?  I remember the day I discovered the date; Milly the Quilter had finished the God Bless America Quilt, and we had been singing the song.  One of the reasons Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America” was because he didn’t like “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  It was hard to sing.  Berlin talked about the song becoming our National Anthem.  In 1931.

There must have been a mistake.  Our country didn’t have a National Anthem before 1931?  We’d been around a long time.  I called my mother.

“Mother, was “The Star-Spangled Banner” the National Anthem when you were a child?”

“No, it wasn’t.”

I think she could tell I was not a happy camper.

“What did you sing growing up?”

“My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

She was fine.  She had lived through the wars and the depression.  She was happy to sing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”  I think she was bothered that I was troubled.  Our parents can always put a perspective on history.  Thank goodness.

Happy Birthday to “The Star-Spangled Banner” becoming America’s National Anthem.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in America, history, music, patriotism, Singing, Teaching young children and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

61 Responses to Happy Birthday to “The Star-Spangled Banner” becoming America’s National Anthem

  1. srbottch says:

    Wonderful story, especially about an older generation’s perspective, your mom. I love the SSB. A teacher taugt it in elementary school and I’ve never forgotten the words. I’m putting out my flag right now😋

  2. Opher says:

    I once wrote a ‘global anthem’ for the whole world – everybody. It didn’t catch on though.

  3. History offers many opportunities for wonderful stories for you to share with the eager youngsters. 🙂

  4. Dan Antion says:

    We learned the Star Spangle Banner in school, but whenever we performed (younger grades) they had us sing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Not that we ever sounded good, but I suppose we sounded better singing that one.

  5. Annika Perry says:

    Jennie, what a precious book but blimey, I had no idea your national anthem was so young! Intrigued I had to listen to ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee’ and astonished that this is the music to our God Save the King (still not used to that as all my life been Queen!) Yes, thank goodness to our parents – always grounding!

    • Jennie says:

      Annika, like you I had no idea it was so young. I was shocked. Yes, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” is is the same tune as “God Save the Queen.” And, you are so right about our parents. They ground us. Thank goodness!

  6. quiall says:

    It really is amazing the titbits that hide in our histories.

  7. Hi Jennie, this is new information to me too.

  8. Don Ostertag says:

    I am not a fan of the SSB. I don’t like it’s glorification of war, and the fact it is set to an English drinking song and is impossible for ordinary people to sing.
    I opt for America The Beautiful. It speaks of the beauty of our land. And it asks that we ‘crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea’.
    My rant being over, I like the artwork of the book and since you praised it as reading for the little ones, I know it must be very good, Jennie.

    • Jennie says:

      You are not on a rant at all. SSB is hard to sing, and Irving Berlin was right. Yet, from the perspective of Francis Scott Key trapped on the boat and watching the fight, the song makes perfect sense. The illustrations throughout the book are as wonderful as the cover. Don, I don’t think you followed me throughout the Milly the Quilter years. She felt that “America the Beautiful” was the best patriotic song. Milly had a beautiful voice, and she often sang this for the children. Wonderful doesn’t even come close. I need to sing this to the children more often. Best to you, Don.

  9. In the song where it says ” and the bombs bursting in air”,you can thank Canada for that! It was written in regards to the war of 1812.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, the song was written while Key was trapped on the boat in the Baltimore Harbor at Fort McHenry, watching, during the war of 1812. Please fill me in on Canada.

  10. A great story, Jennie. Thank you for sharing. I didn’t know the Star Spangled Banner wasn’t the national anthem until 1931 either.

  11. We sang “My Country” in school as well, and most definitely sounded better singing that than the Star-Spangled Banner. I too was surprised it wasn’t until 1931 it became the Anthem.

  12. Thank you for this reminder, Jennie! Long may we sing it and long may she wave!

  13. K.L. Hale says:

    I really thought it was older than that! I’ve sang it at many ballgames and it bothers me when there’s disrespect during the song (not me singing, but anytime it’s played). I’m not particularly fond of it, but I appreciate its place in our history. I love “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful “. When Dad took us to see Pike’s Peak, he was a history teacher, we talked of our country the entire way to Colorado. I wish that song was our anthem! It touches my heart so much. As my love for the mountains and traveling grew, so did my love for that song. Still, I respect and wish our anthem a happy birthday!

    • Jennie says:

      Well said! Disrespecting our National Anthem is terrible. I wish sports players would stand tall and proud when it’s played. The SSB is very hard to sing, and like you I much prefer “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.” How wonderful to hear about your trip to Pikes Peak with your dad! What an experience!!

  14. willowdot21 says:

    Thank goodness for empathetic mums who put us right 💜

  15. beetleypete says:

    I agree with Berlin, and your anthem always sounds impossible to sing properly when I hear it. But anything has to be better than our national anthem, ‘God Save The King’. It is such a dirge! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  16. Brian Bixby says:

    And in the associated historical trivia, FSK’s son Philip Barton Key II would commit adultery with Teresa Sickles, be murdered by her husband, Daniel Sickles, who would get off by deploying the temporary insanity defense for the first time in the United States. Sickles, a Congressman at the time (and you think some of the current ones are bad?) went on to become a Civil War general best known for winning the Medal of Honor for moving his troops into the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg and letting them get slaughtered.

  17. AmyRose🌹 says:

    Hmmmm ….. I did not know this, Jennie. I’m stunned our National Anthem is so young.

  18. Imagining your reaction made me smile, Jennie. Have a beautiful weekend. Hugs.

  19. Our Older generations hold such a lot of information, Oh and I remember that beautiful quilt which you shared that Milly had made…
    Have a wonderful Sunday Jennie.. ❤

  20. That’s great! Thanks for the information, Jennie! Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I hope you have better weather there in NH. xx Michael

  21. Didn’t know that–and what a great way to break the news to us luddites!

  22. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. Let’s follow our blogs. Anita

  23. Pingback: Happy Birthday to “The Star-Spangled Banner” becoming America’s National Anthem – MobsterTiger

  24. Alyssa says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I’m 5 days late, but want to share this with my children anyway!

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