Francis Scott Key is known for writing the Star Spangled Banner, also known as the National Anthem of the United States. During the war of 1812, Key, a lawyer, was aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant negotiating the release of a political prisoner when the Battle of Baltimore broke out centered around Fort McHenry. At dawn the next day, Key reported seeing the American flag waving over Fort McHenry and had the inspiration to write a poem upon which the anthem is based. The song, based on Key's poem, was adopted as the United States national anthem in 1916 by Executive order from President Woodrow Wilson.
Born - August 1, 1779
Died - January 11, 1843
- Y—Young (PreK-3rd)
- M—Middle (4th-6th)
- O—Older (7th-12th)
- T—Teacher Resources
Francis Scott Key Biography
Learn about Francis Scott Key’s early life and career in this biography from NPS.
Francis Scott Key, the Reluctant Patriot
Francis Scott Key, writer of the Star Spangled Banner, was “an unlikely candidate to write what would become the national anthem. He had referred to the conflict as “abominable” and a “lump of wickedness,” siding with the many Americans...who believed that a diplomatic accommodation with Britain could have avoided hostilities altogether.” From the Smithsonian Magazine.
Francis Scott Key’s Slave-Holding Legacy
Francis Scott Key was a lawyer and District Attorney for the City of Washington who worked on several high-profile cases in which he defended slavery. Learn more about Key’s work and the abolitionist movements of his time in this Smithsonian Magazine article.
Francis Scott Key Monument
Learn about the Francis Scott Key Monument, installed in Baltimore, MD, in 1911 or visit in person.
Francis Scott Key
Francis Scott Key was a lawyer and an amateur poet. Learn more about Key and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Francis Scott Key Activity Page
A brief overview of the events that led to the writing of the Star Spangled Banner from Garden of Praise that includes a quiz, puzzles, coloring pages, and more.
Star Spangled Banner
The Star Spangled Banner lyrics, accompanying music, and fun facts for kids. From National Institutes of Health, Department of Health & Human Services.
Star-Spangled Banner Primary Sources
Star-Spangled Banner sheet music, recordings, photos, films, artwork, and more from the Library of Congress.
The Star-Spangled Banner Lesson
Learn about the Bombardment of Fort McHenry and how it influenced the writing of Francis Scott Key’s "The Rockets' Red Glare." From the National Park Service. Designed for grades 6-8.
“Defence of Fort McHenry” or “The Star-Spangled Banner”
A look at the original text of “Defence of Fort McHenry,” the poem that would eventually come to be known as the Star Spangled Banner. From the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Who Wrote the National Anthem? (Reading Activity)
A reading and vocabulary exercise for kids on the history of Francis Scott Key’s writing of the national anthem.