In celebration of the 4th of July, discover the origins of some of the most popular American patriotic songs in history:

  • 1781—At the Battle of Yorktown, American troops played the tune “Yankee Doodle” in defiance as the British marched out to surrender. The song had become an unofficial anthem for the American Revolution. (All Things Liberty—A Short History of “Yankee Doodle,” Thomas Fleming)
  • 1814—Francis Scott Key wrote the “Defence of Fort McHenry,” after witnessing the British attack on Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. In November, a Baltimore music store printed the patriotic song with the sheet music for the first time under the more lyrical title “The Star Spangled Banner.” (—9 Things You May Not Know About “The Star Spangled Banner”)
  • 1831—On July 4th, a children’s choir in Boston sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” marking its first performance. This song was considered the country’s unofficial national anthem for nearly a century. (The Gilder Lehman Institute of American History—“My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” Samuel F. Smith)
  • 1926—The National Federation of Music Clubs sponsored a contest to elicit new music for Katherine Lee Bates’ poem, “American the Beautiful.” Samuel Augustus Wards’ composition “Materna” became the poem’s final melody we know and sing today. (Library of Congress—Song-Collection, “America the Beautiful”)
  • 1931—Over 100 years after it was originally written, a measure is passed by Congress stating that “The Star Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States. (—9 Things You May Not Know About “The Star Spangled Banner”)
  • 1938—Popular vocalist Kate Smith sang “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin to national acclaim on her radio broadcast honoring the 20th anniversary of Armistice Day on November 11th. (Voices Across Time—“God Bless America,” Adam Cooper)