Historical Highlights

The Designation of the “Star-Spangled Banner”

March 03, 1931
The Designation of the “Star-Spangled Banner” Image courtesy of Library of Congress Representative John Linthicum of Maryland served 10 terms in Congress before being named Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the 72nd Congress (1931–1933). The Congressman passed away before the end of the 72nd Congress.
On this date, President Herbert Hoover signed into law a bill that designated the “Star-Spangled Banner” as the National Anthem of the United States. On April 15, 1929, Representative John Linthicum of Maryland introduced to the House, H.R. 14, a bill to make the song penned by Francis Scott Key during the 1814 British siege of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, the national anthem. Nearly a year later, Linthicum secured a hearing with the Judiciary Committee and implored his colleagues to attend with a speech that claimed the nation "needed a national song to give expression to its patriotism.” The Maryland Congressman also submitted a petition that contained more than five million individual signatures, resolutions and letters from 150 organizations, and “letters and telegrams from 25 governors . . . asking that the bill be enacted into law.” The bill passed the House on April 21, 1930. Critics claimed that Linthicum, whose district encompassed parts of Baltimore, was as eager to promote city history as national patriotism. Moreover, they complained that the old “drinking” song was ill-suited to the average vocal range. As one of the final acts of the 71st Congress (1929–1931), H.R. 14 passed the Senate. Even after the anthem bill was enacted newspapers continued to criticize the necessity of such a law.

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