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Biography FRANCIS SCOTT KEY

Francis Scott Key

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1st day of Issue 8/9/1948, with PentArts Cachet design.

        Francis Scott Key was born during the Revolutionary War on August 1, 1779 in western Maryland, a place called Terra Rubra (near Frederick), Maryland. His family was very wealthy being planters (planters in the 1700's were farmers who owned their own land usually a few 1,000 acres which translatted into wealth)  on their own estate. His father John Ross Key was a lawyer, a judge and an officer in the Continental Army. His great-grandparents were Philip Key and Susanna Barton Gardiner, both born in London, England, immigrated to Maryland in 1726.
    Ther is  little written of Keys early years prior to schooling at 10 years of age when his parents sent him to grammar school in Annapolis. After graduating at the age of 17, he studied law at St. John's College, Annapolis while working with his uncle Philip Barton Key's law firm. By 1805, he had a well-established law practice of his own in Georgetown, a suburb of Washington, D.C. By 1814, he had appeared many times before the Supreme Court and had been appointed the United States District Attorney a post he held from 1833 to 1841.
      Francis as a prominent Washington Attorney who dabbled in poetry was sent to help secure the release of a prisoner Dr. William Beanes, being held on a British Warship. Key was detained overnight and witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry on the night of September 13-14,1814. He was overjoyed at daybreak, when the smoke cleared , Key was able to see the American flag still flying at the fort (the specially-made flag was 30 feet high and 42 feet wide), that he began writting  what would be his first draft of "The Star Spangled Banner."
      The poem, titled "Defence of Fort M'Henry," was first printed a few days later in the Baltimore American newspaper and from there it became widely circulated in newspapers throughout the U.S.. The poem was sung to the tune of an English song, "To Anacreon in Heaven", but was popularly called "The Star-Spangled Banner," as Key had named it. Though many Americans sang it, as our country's anthem  the song was not adopted as the American national anthem until  President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, first by an Executive Order and then by a Congressional resolution on 3 March 1931 as the U.S. national anthem signed by President Herbert Hoover.
Died: 11 January 1843 (pleurisy)
Best Known As: The attorney who wrote "The Star Spangled Banner". His poetic works were collected after his death, but apart from the National Anthem they are of slight literary interest.


In the fourth stanza Key urged the adoption of "In God is our Trust" as the national motto. The United States adopted the motto "In God We Trust" by law in 1956.

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The American Creedo Series 9/14/1960, with an Art Craft cachet.
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Americana Issues(75-81) FDI 6/30/1978 ,DC cachets

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