The Star Spangled Banner


Doug Boilesen, 2024

"The Star Spangled Banner's" sheet music, phonograph records, moving pictures and talking pictures are featured in this gallery.


Sheet Music and the Song

"The Star-Spangled Banner" became the the official national anthem of the United States when the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution on March 3, 1931 and President Herbert Hoover signed into law.

The lyrics come from the "Defence of Fort M'Henry", a poem written on September 14, 1814, by 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Outer Baltimore Harbor in the Patapsco River during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large U.S. flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the U.S. victory. Wikipedia, Star Spangled Banner.


The earliest surviving sheet music of "The Star Spangled Banner" arranged by Thomas Carr, published on November 1,1814. Printed and Sold at CARRS Music Store, Baltimore.



The first publication of sheet music of "The Star Spangled Banner" with flag on it published by A. Bacon and Co., Philadelphia, PA, [ca. 1815]. (The Library of Congress)


"The Stripes and the Stars," new version of the melody of "The Star Spangled Banner." Published by S. Brainard & Co., Cleveland. (The Library of Congress).


Sheet music printed as a Supplement to the San Francisco Examiner, arranged as a Song with Chorus by C. Merkley. May 15, 1898. (Source: The Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins).

See the Library of Congress for a wide variety of musical arrangements of the Star Spangled Banner that document changes throughout its history. The Library of Congress has historically significant editions of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and editions of "The Anacreontic Song" by John Stafford Smith (the tune used for "The Star-Spangled Banner").


Phonograph Records of "The Star Spangled Banner"


LISTEN to The Star Spangled Banner played by Sousa's Band, Berliner Gramophone Record 103 Y, 7" single-sided disc recorded on April 7, 1898 (Source: David Giovannoni Collection)



Columbia Cylinder Record Box, 1902

LISTEN to The Star Spangled Banner played by The Columbia Band, Columbia 2-minute moulded cylinder Record No. 1512, Released as XP c. 1902 (Source: David Giovannoni Collection).


LISTEN to The Star Spangled Banner sung by Margaret Woodrow Wilson, Columbia Record 10" A1685 double-sided disc (with medley of national airs on reverse side). Recorded on January 22, 1915 and promoted by Columbia as a Souvenir Record at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition with Wilson's entire royalty (25¢ per record) donated to the American Red Cross to aid European war suffers. (Source: David Giovannoni Collection).



LISTEN to the history of "The Star Spangled Banner song" - chorus, orchestra, fifes, and drums, Descriptive by Harry E. Humphrey & Choir Boys of St. Ignatius Loyola, Edison Blue Amberol 4-minute Cylinder Record No. 2984, recorded June 24, 1916. (Source: David Giovannoni Collection).


Who's Who in the Blue Amberol List for October

"A recitation of the patriotic lines of "Our National Song" by Harry E. Humphrey. The Edison Phonograph Monthly, September 1916


Moving Pictures - "The Birth of The Star Spangled Banner," Edison Film, 1914

Edison released his historical film drama titled "The Birth of the Star Spangled Banner" on August 28, 1914. This film with an added piano accompaniment can be watched courtesy of the Library of Congress.

WATCH Edison's 1914 Film "The Birth of the Star Spangled Banner." (LOC)


Top section of sheet poster for Edison's "The Birth of the Star Spangled Banner," "The Kinetogram" August 1914, p. 28 (Source: HathiTrust, original from Ohio State University) - The Kinetogram was a semi-monthly bulletin of Motion Picture News, with emphasis on Edison Films and Kinetoscopes. Published by Thomas A. Edison, Inc. (See Supplemental Notes about Edison and "The Kinetogram.")

"Written just one hundred years will grip you from beginning to end" wrote the advertising synopsis in "The Kinetogram" of August 1914.


"The Birth of the Star Spangled Banner," Advertising Synopsis, "The Kinetogram" August 1914


Since this release was as a silent film, MUSIC QUES were provided to theatres.

"The Birth of the Star Spangled Banner," August 1914, "The Kinetogram."


Screenshots of chorus singing "The Star Spangled Banner."


Talking Pictures - Edison's Kinetophone Minstrel Chorus Performance of "The Star Spangled Banner," February 1913

A scene from an early presentation of the Kinetophone (an Edison moving picture with recorded sound) with a chorus performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" is described in "Edison" by Edmund Morris in 1913 as follows:

At four P.M. on 17 February, Edison stood in the wings of New York's Colonial Theater to monitor the reactions of more than a thousand viewers to his portfolio of demonstration shorts. The program began in expectant silence, with the usual shutter-flutter emanating from the projection box. But when Hutchinson's stentorian spokesman appeared on-screen and began to orate, there was a collective murmur of astonishment. The wonder grew when the pretty girl sang and Brutus and Cassius quarreled and Mephistopheles taunted Faust and a group of minstrels (two in blackface) launched into a medley of popular hits. The show climaxed with a chorus performance of "The Star Spangled Banner." When it ended, the audience sat spellbound for a long moment, then burst into applause and shouts of "We want Edison!" He remained out of sight while the calls, punctuated with rhythic handclaps, grew louder." (Morris, Edmund, "Edison", Random House, New York, 2019, p. 142.) See New York Times, 18 Feb. 1913.

Morris explains the following in a footnote about the Library of Congress's restoration of this film: "There is an unavoidable lapse in synchronism at the end, when "God Save the King" plays in audio while minstrels mouth the words of "The Star Spangled Banner" in video. This is because the soundtrack derives from an alternative take, filmed for British release." (Morris, "Edison," p. 670, footnote 145.)

The Kinetophone version of "God Save the King" as described by Morris is below (at the end of the Edison Minstrels "demonstration" film short).


WATCH and LISTEN to 1913 Edison spokesman introducing the Edison's talking films via Edison's Kinetophone


Edison Ministrels (two in blackface) Opening Overature, Kinetophone 1913 (Disclaimer)


Baritone Solo, Kinetophone 1913


"God Save The King" audio (British Version as performers are actually singing "The Star Spangled Banner", Closing segment of "Demonstration Portfolio" of Kinetophone, 1913


"Nineteen talking pictures were produced in 1913 by Edison, but by 1915 he had abandoned sound motion pictures."

Why were these unsuccessful?

The Library of Congress provides the following explanation in their Early Edison Experiments with Sight and Sound article:

There were several reasons for this. First, union rules stipulated that local union projectionists had to operate the Kinetophones, even though they hadn't been trained properly in its use. This led to many instances where synchronization was not achieved, causing audience dissatisfaction. The method of synchronization used was still less than perfect, and breaks in the film would cause the motion picture to get out of step with the phonograph record. The dissolution of the Motion Picture Patents Corp. in 1915 may also have contributed to Edison's departure from sound films, since this act deprived him of patent protection for his motion picture inventions.



Supplemental Notes:


Edison's photograph was featured as part of the The Kinetogram's banner, February 1, 1914


"The Kinetogram" banner changed to a monthly news bulletin along with the Edison 'movie credit' going to Edison now noted as the one "Who gave the World the Motion Picture" (previously "to whom the world owes the Moving Picture Idea").





Last updated February 4, 2024