Francis Scott Key

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Date of Birth August 1, 1779
Place of Birth Maryland
Date of Death Jan 11, 1843 (63)
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Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet from Frederick, Maryland, who is best known for writing the lyrics for the American national anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner". Key observed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814 during the War of 1812. He was inspired upon seeing the American flag still flying over the fort at dawn and wrote the poem "Defence of Fort M'Henry"; it was published within a week with the suggested tune of the popular song "To Anacreon in Heaven". The song with Key's lyrics became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner" and slowly gained in popularity as an unofficial anthem, finally achieving official status more than a century later under President Herbert Hoover as the national anthem. The national motto "In God We Trust" derives from a line in "The Star-Spangled Banner".

Born: August 1, 1779, Frederick County, Maryland (now Carroll County)
Died: January 11, 1843, Baltimore, Maryland
Resting place: Mt. Olivet Cemetery
Nationality: American
Spouse(s): Mary Tayloe Lloyd
Children: 11, including Philip
Relatives: Philip Barton Key (uncle), Francis Key Howard (grandson), F. Scott Fitzgerald (cousin), Roger B. Taney (brother-in-law)
Occupation: Poet, lawyer, district attorney
President: Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren
Preceded by: Thomas Swann
Succeeded by: Philip Richard Fendall II
IMDb: Francis Scott Key's IMDb

About Francis Scott Key

Lawyer, author, and poet who wrote the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner," which would later become the U.S. National Anthem.

Before Fame

He was inspired to write the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner" after witnessing the bloody attack of Fort McHenry by the British forces while aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant.


He defended Sam Houston in 1832 during Houston's trial for assaulting a Congressional colleague. He served from 1833 until 1841 as a United States District Attorney.

Family Life

He married Mary Polly Taylor Lloyd on January 19, 1802, and they had 11 children together.


He set his lyrics for "The Star-Spangled Banner" to John Stafford Smith's famous tune "To Anacreon in Heaven." It was officially declared the National Anthem by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 via an Executive Order, then by a Congressional resolution in 1931 that was signed by President Herbert Hoover.

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  • St. John's College (Annapolis/Santa Fe) alumni
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  • American Bible Society
  • Key family of Maryland
  • American proslavery activists
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  • Maryland lawyers
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  • 19th-century American lawyers
  • 19th-century American poets
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Latest information about Francis Scott Key updated on January 21, 2021.

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