Monday, July 4, 2011
The Star-Spangled Banner
When I was a little girl, my favorite holiday was the 4th of July. Looking back, I'm trying to remember if it beat out Christmas, or if it was a neck and neck holiday tie. Probably both. I loved 4th of July picnics, eating juicy, beefy hamburgers slathered in ketchup, mustard, and pickles. I loved spending time with family, singing patriotic songs, waving American flags, and listening to bands play the national anthem. But the highlight came after sundown, when the sky lit up with the brilliant sparkles and various colors of fireworks. I sat mesmerized by the glorious sight, trying to decide which showstopper was my favorite . . . each display exceeding the last . . . and all of them magically synchronized to a patriotic soundtrack.
Take all of this, and imagine the inspiration of our national anthem birthed out of heavy shelling and rocketing bombs. It happened during the War of 1812, when the British bombarded Baltimore's Fort McHenry for a twenty-five hour stint. Frances Scott Key penned these resonating words when he spotted our American flag gloriously waving out of the smog and battle's fray. From the unfurling of that "Star-Spangled Banner" raised over Fort McHenry, we Americans gained a national anthem. Check out Peter Spier's superb depiction of history in his illustrated book The Star-Spangled Banner (c. 1973). Spier illustriously represents each stanza of the anthem and provides a concise history in the appendix.
You may also enjoy Peter Spier's We the People: The Constitution of the United States of America (c. 1987). And have a happy 4th of July, dear readers!