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Singing the Dream: American Sheet Music at the British Library: Part 1

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

The War of 1812

On 18 June 1812, less than forty years after the Declaration of Independence, the United States declared war upon Great Britain and its colonies.

The causes of the war have been debated by historians ever since, but invariably included in the mix are: American frustration at British restraints on neutral trade during the Napoleonic wars; the forced conscription of thousands of American sailors into the British navy; alleged British military support for American Indians defending their tribal lands from American settlers; and, to a lesser extent, American territorial ambition in Canada. The war was fought on land and sea and lasted for more than two years; both nations lost approximately two thousand troops.

The Star Spangled Banner

O! Say Can You See. The Star Spangled Banner 9kb
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O! Say Can You See. The Star Spangled Banner. New York: Geib & Co., 1817. H.1860.ww.(38)
Copyright © The British Library

During the night of 3 September 1814, while on a mission approved by U.S. President Monroe, Francis Scott Key witnessed the massive British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. As dawn broke Key was astounded to see the American flag still flying. To commemorate this stunning victory he immediately wrote a 4-stanza poem entitled "Defence of Fort McHenry". Recognising that the poem perfectly fit the popular British drinking song "Anacreon in Heaven", Key's brother-in-law had the poem published and it soon began gaining popularity as "The Star-Spangled Banner". On 3 March 1931, nearly 120 years after it was first penned, it became the national anthem of the United States. This edition, published in New York in 1817, is one of the earliest examples of American sheet music held by the British Library.

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10


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