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The trouble with Europeans

is they think 200 miles is a

long way.


The trouble with Americans

is they think 200 years is a

long time.




Chasing the American

Dream does not count as exercise.




How do you convince

Americans to get involved in

a war?


Tell them it's nearly finished.




I'm American, and I'm sick

of people saying America is

the stupidest country in the world.


"Personally, I think Europe

is the stupidest country in

the world.




Presidents Ford, Reagan,

Carter, Nixon and Clinton

were on the Titanic.


On that fateful night the ship

hit an iceberg and began to



Ford screamed, "What should

we do?"


Reagan said, "Man the



Carter said, "Women first."


Nixon said, "Screw the



Clinton said, "Do you think

we have time?"



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land of the free because of the brave

 "The Star-Spangled Banner"  is the national anthem of the

United States of America. The lyrics come from "Defence of

Fort McHenry", a poem written in 1814 by the 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 Baltimore Harbour, during the Battle of Fort

McHenry in the War of 1812.


The poem was set to the tune of a popular British song written by John Stafford Smith for the

Anacreontic Society, a men's social club in London.  "To Anacreon in Heaven" 

(or "The Anacreontic Song"), with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States.

Set to Key's poem and renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner", it would soon become a well-

known American patriotic song. With a range of one octave and one fifth (a semitone more

than an octave and a half), it is known for being difficult to sing. Although the poem has four

stanzas, only the first is commonly sung today.


"The Star-Spangled Banner" was recognized for official use by the United States Navy in 1889, and by U.S. President  Woodrow Wilson  in 1916, and was made the national anthem by a congressional resolution on March the 3rd 1931 (46 Stat. 1508, codified at 36 U.S.C. § 301), which was signed by President Herbert Hoover.


Before 1931, other songs served as the hymns of American officialdom. "Hail, Columbia" served this purpose at official functions for most of the 19th century.  "My Country, 'Tis of Thee",  whose melody is identical to "God Save the Queen", the British national anthem, also served as a defacto anthem. Following the War of 1812 and subsequent American wars, other songs emerged to compete for popularity at public events, among them "The Star-Spangled Banner".


On September the 3rd, 1814, following the Burning of Washington and the Raid on Alexandria, Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner set sail from Baltimore aboard the ship HMS Minden, flying a flag of truce on a mission approved by President  James Madison.  Their objective was to secure the exchange of prisoners, one of whom was Dr. William Beanes, the elderly and popular town physician of Upper Marlboro and a friend of Key's who had been captured in his home. Beanes was accused of aiding the arrest of British soldiers.


Key and Skinner boarded the British flagship  HMS Tonnant  on September the 7th and spoke with Major General Robert Ross and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane over dinner while the two officers discussed war plans. At first, Ross and Cochrane refused to release Beanes, but relented after Key and Skinner showed them letters written by wounded British prisoners praising Beanes and other Americans for their kind treatment.






Because Key and Skinner had heard details of the plans for the attack on Baltimore, they were held captive until after the battle, first aboard HMS Surprise and later back on HMS Minden. After the bombardment, certain British gunboats attempted to slip past the fort and effect a landing in a cove to the west of it, but they were turned away by fire from nearby  Fort  Covington,  the city's last line of defence.


During the rainy night, Key had witnessed the bombardment and observed that the fort's smaller "storm flag" continued to fly, but once the shell and Congreve rocket barrage had stopped, he would not know how the battle had turned out until dawn. On the morning of September the 14th, the storm flag had been lowered and the larger flag had been raised. During the

bombardment,  HMS Erebus  provided the "rockets' red glare". HMS Meteor provided at least some of the "bombs bursting in the air".

Key was inspired by the American victory and the sight of the large American flag flying triumphantly above the fort. This flag, with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, had been made by  Mary Young Pickersgill  together with other workers in her home on Baltimore's Pratt Street. The flag later came to be known as the Star-Spangled Banner and is today on display in the National Museum of American History, a treasure of the Smithsonian Institution. It was restored in 1914 by Amelia Fowler, and again in 1998 as part of an ongoing conservation program.



















Aboard the ship the next day, Key wrote a poem on the back of a letter he had kept in his pocket.  At twilight on September the 16th, he and Skinner were released in Baltimore. He completed the poem at the Indian Queen Hotel, where he was staying, and titled it  "Defence of Fort McHenry".  Much of the idea of the poem, including the flag imagery and some of the wording, is derived from an earlier song by Key, also set to the tune of The Anacreon Song. The song, known as  "When the    Warrior Returns"  was written in honour of Stephen Decatur and Charles Stewart on their return from the First Barbary War.


According to the historian  Robin Blackburn,  the words "the hireing and slave" allude to the fact that the British attackers had many ex-slaves in their ranks, who had been promised liberty and demanded to be placed in the battle line "where they might expect to meet their former masters".

Slavery in the United States was the legal institution of  human chattel  enslavement, primarily of Africans and African Americans, that existed in the United States of America in the 18th and

19th centuries.

 Founding Fathers Uncommon Heroes 

 Steven W Allen 


usa founding fathers uncommon heroes


On September the 20th, both the  Baltimore Patriot  and The American

printed the song, with the note "Tune:

                                                            Anacreon in Heaven". The song

quickly became popular, with seventeen newspapers from Georgia

to New Hampshire printing it. Soon after, Thomas Carr of the Carr

Music Store in Baltimore published the words and music together

under the title "The Star Spangled Banner", although it was originally

called "Defence of Fort McHenry". The song's popularity increased, and

its first public performance took place in October, when Baltimore actor

Ferdinand Durang sang it at Captain McCauley's tavern. Washington

Irving, then editor of The Analectic Magazine in Philadelphia, reprinted

the song in November 1814.


By the early 20th century, there were various versions of the song

in popular use. Seeking a singular, standard version, President

Woodrow Wilson tasked the  U.S. Bureau of Education  with providing

that official version. In response, the Bureau enlisted the help of five

musicians to agree upon an arrangement.


Those musicians were Walter Damrosch, Will Earhart, Arnold J.

Gantvoort, Oscar Sonneck and  John Philip Sousa.  The standardized

version that was voted upon by these five musicians premiered at

Carnegie Hall on December the 5th, 1917, in a program that included

Edward Elgar's Carillon and Gabriel Pierné's The Children's Crusade.

The concert was put on by the Oratorio Society of New York and

conducted by Walter Damrosch. An official handwritten version of the

final votes of these five men has been found and shows all five men's

votes tallied, measure by measure. 


The Italian opera composer  Giacomo Puccini  used an extract of the

melody in writing the aria "Dovunque al mondo..." in 1904 for his work

Madama Butterfly. (IPA: [maˈdaːmˈbatterflai]; Madam Butterfly) is an

opera in three acts (originally two) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian

libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.


The song gained popularity throughout the 19th century and bands played it during public events, such as July 4th celebrations. On July the 27th, 1889, Secretary of the Navy  Benjamin F. Tracy  signed General Order #374, making "The Star-Spangled Banner" the official tune to be played at the raising of the flag.

made in the usa with flag

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that "The Star-

Spangled Banner" be played at military and other

appropriate occasions. The playing of the song two years later

during the seventh-inning stretch of Game One of the  1918 

 World Series,  and there after during each game of the series is

often cited as the first instance that the anthem was played at a

baseball game, though evidence shows that the "Star-

Spangled Banner" was performed as early as 1897 at the

opening day ceremonies in Philadelphia and then more

regularly at the Polo Grounds in New York City beginning in

1898. In any case, the tradition of performing the national

anthem before every baseball game began in World War II.


On November the 3rd, 1929, Robert Ripley drew a panel in his

syndicated cartoon,  Ripley's Believe it or Not!,  saying "Believe

It or Not, America has no national anthem". In 1931, John

Philip Sousa published his opinion in favour, stating that "it is the

spirit of the music that inspires" as much as it is Key's "soul-

stirring" words. By a law signed on March the 3rd, 1931 by

President Herbert Hoover, "The Star-Spangled Banner" was

adopted as the national anthem of the United States of



Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:

                                                                         'Tis the star-

spangled banner, O! long may it wave,

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly sword

That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,

A home and a country, should leave us no more?

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

                                                                               The star-

spangled banner in triumph doth wave,

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.

Blest with victory and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto:

                                  "In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!



 Additional Civil War period lyrics 


In indignation over the start of the American Civil War,  Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.  added a fifth stanza to the song in 1861 which appeared in songbooks of the era.


When our land is illumined with Liberty's smile.

If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory.

Down, down with the traitor that dares to defile The flag of her stars and the page of her glory!

By the millions unchained who our birthright have gained.

We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!

And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave.

While the land of the free is the home of the brave.


 Alternative lyrics 


In a version hand-written by  Francis Scott Key  in 1840, the third line reads "Whose bright stars and broad stripes, through the clouds of the fight".

usa country flag


The song is notoriously difficult for non professionals to sing because of its wide range. Humorist  Richard   Armour  referred to the song's difficulty in his book It All Started With Columbus.

In an attempt to take Baltimore, the British attacked Fort McHenry, which protected the harbour. Bombs were soon bursting in air, rockets were glaring, and all in all it was a moment of great historical interest.


During the bombardment, a young lawyer named Francis Off Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner", and when, by the dawn's early light, the British heard it sung, they fled in terror. 

—Richard Armour

captain america the first avenger


Some people can carry a tune but they seem to stagger under

the load. The pre recording of the anthem has become

standard practice at some ballparks, such as Boston's

Fenway Park, according to the SABR publication  The Fenway 



"The Star-Spangled Banner" is traditionally played at the

beginning of public sports events and orchestral concerts in the

United States, as well as other public gatherings. Performances

at particularly large events are often ended with a military flypast,

but have also featured Challenger the eagle flying over the

stadium before landing on his handler's gloved hand.


The National Hockey League and  Major League Soccer  both

require venues in both the U.S. and Canada to perform

both the Canadian and American national anthems at games that

involve teams from both countries (with the "away" anthem being

performed first). It is also usual for both American and Canadian

anthems (done in the same way as the NHL and MLS) to be

played at Major League Baseball and National Basketball

Association games involving the Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Raptors

(respectively), the only Canadian teams in those two major U.S. sports leagues. The

Buffalo Sabres of the NHL, which play in a city on the Canadian border and have a

substantial Canadian fan base, play both anthems before all home games regardless of

where the visiting team is based.


Two especially unusual performances of the song took place in the immediate aftermath

of the United States September the 11th attacks. On September the 12th, 2001, the

Queen broke with tradition and allowed the Band of the  Coldstream Guards  to perform

the anthem at Buckingham Palace, London, at the ceremonial Changing of the Guard, as

a gesture of support for Britain's ally.


The following day at a  St. Paul's Cathedral  memorial service, the Queen joined in the

singing of the anthem, an unprecedented occurrence.


The  200th anniversary  of the "Star-Spangled Banner" occurred in 2014 with

various special events occurring throughout the United States. A particularly

significant celebration occurred during the week of September the 10th–16th in and

around Baltimore, Maryland. Highlights included playing of a new arrangement of the

anthem arranged by John Williams and participation of President Obama on Defender's Day, September the 12th, 2014, at Fort McHenry. In addition, the anthem bicentennial included a youth music celebration including the presentation of the

National Anthem Bicentennial Youth Challenge winning composition written by Noah Altshuler. 


The first popular music performance of the anthem heard by mainstream America was by Puerto Rican singer and guitarist  José Feliciano.  He created a nationwide uproar when he strummed a slow, blues-style rendition of the song at Tiger

Stadium in Detroit before game five of the 1968 World Series, between Detroit and St. Louis. This rendition started contemporary "Star-Spangled Banner" controversies. The response from many in Vietnam era America was generally negative, given that 1968 was a tumultuous year for the United States. Despite the controversy, Feliciano's performance opened the door for the countless interpretations of the "Star-Spangled Banner" heard in the years since. One week after Feliciano's performance, the anthem was in the news again when American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos lifted controversial raised fists at the 1968 Olympics while the "Star-Spangled Banner" played at a medal ceremony.

Marvin Gaye gave a soul-influenced performance at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game and

 Whitney Houston  gave a soulful rendition before Super Bowl XXV in 1991, which

was released as a single that charted at number 20 in 1991 and number 6 in 2001

(along with José Feliciano, the only times the anthem has been on the Billboard Hot

100). In 1993, Kiss did an instrumental rock version as the closing track on their album,

Alive III.


Another famous instrumental interpretation is  Jimi Hendrix's  version which was a set-

list staple from autumn 1968 until his death in September 1970, including a famous

rendition at the Woodstock music festival in 1969. Incorporating sonic effects to

emphasize the "rockets' red glare", and "bombs bursting in air", it became a late-1960s



 Roseanne Barr  gave a controversial performance of the anthem at a San Diego

Padres baseball game at Jack Murphy Stadium on July the 25th, 1990. The

comedienne belted out a screechy rendition of the song, and afterward she attempted a

gesture of ball players by spitting and grabbing her crotch as if adjusting a protective

cup. The performance offended some, including the sitting U.S. President.


 Sufjan Stevens  has frequently performed the "Star-Spangled Banner" in live sets,

replacing the optimism in the end of the first verse with a new coda which alludes to the divisive state of the nation today.


 David Lee Roth  both referenced to parts of the anthem and played part of a hard rock rendition of the anthem on his song, "Yankee Rose" on his 1986 solo album, Eat 'Em and Smile.


 Steven Tyler  also caused some controversy in 2001 (at the Indianapolis 500, to which he later issued a public apology) and again in 2012 (at the AFC Championship Game) with a cappella renditions of the song with changed lyrics. A version of Aerosmith's Joe Perry and Brad Whitford playing part of the song can be heard at the end of their version of "Train Kept A-Rollin'" on the Rockin' the Joint album.


 Boston  gave an instrumental rock rendition of the anthem on their Greatest Hits album.

 Crush 40  made a version of the song as opening track from the album Thrill of the Feel (2000).


Several films have their titles taken from the song's lyrics. These include two films titled Dawn's Early Light (2000 and 2005); two made-for-TV features titled By Dawn's Early Light (1990 and 2000); two films titled So Proudly We Hail (1943 and 1990); a feature (1977) and a short (2005) titled Twilight's Last Gleaming; and four films titled  Home of the Brave  (1949, 1986, 2004, and 2006).


The Isaac Asimov short story  "No Refuge Could Save takes its title from a line in the third stanza. In the story, the protagonist notes that he once ferreted out a German spy during World War II because of the spy's knowledge of the third verse, which is virtually unknown by Americans.


 "Ken Burns '  documentary Baseball consists of 9 innings, each of which begins with a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner that is historically appropriate for the period covered in that episode of the series.

star spangled banner lyric sheet


United States Code,  36 U.S.C. § 301,  states that during a rendition of the national anthem, when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart; Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present and not in uniform may render the military salute; men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the head dress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; and when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.


Military law requires all vehicles on the installation to stop when the song is played and all individuals outside to stand at attention and face the direction of the music and either salute, in uniform, or  place the right hand over the heart,  if out of uniform. Recently enacted law in 2008 allows military veterans to salute out of uniform, as well.


However, this statutory suggestion does not have any penalty associated with violations. 36 U.S.C. § 301 This behavioral requirement for the national anthem is subject to the same  First Amendment controversies  that surround the Pledge of Allegiance. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses do not sing the national anthem, though they are taught that standing is an "ethical decision" that individual believers must make based on their "conscience."













Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended

from immigrants and revolutionists.” 
 ―  Franklin D. Roosevelt 

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 The material on this site does not necessarily reflect the views of What If? Tees. 

 The Images and Text are not meant to offend but to Promote Positive Open Debate and Free Speech. 

 The material on this site does not reflect the views of What If? Tees. 

 The Images and Text are not meant to offend but to Promote Positive Open Debate and Free Speech. 

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