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Curator Sheds Light on the History of America's National Anthem

Curator Sheds Light on the History of America's National Anthem
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The Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan's home to one of the first editions of Francis Scott Key's Star-Spangled Banner.

When they're not drowned out by the sound of booming fireworks, patriotic songs can be heard just about everywhere on the 4th of July.  But there's only one song that's officially America's anthem.

The melody that accompanies Francis Scott Key's Star-Spangled Banner was actually associated with a drinking song before his lyrics became more popular.  That's according to Fran Barulich with the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan.  She says the song was a runaway success when it came out in 1814.  But it wasn't deemed the national anthem until President Woodrow Wilson made it official in 1931.

Barulich says it's truly come to represent the US.

"I think it's a wonderful song, I mean it's very exciting and rousing," she said.  "Every time I hear it at the Olypmics, tears come to my eyes."

Barulich says only 11 first edition copies of the song exist.  She says the publisher printed so few after he realized there was a typo in the subtitle.

"Instead of saying a 'patriotic song', he had a 'pariotic song'," she said.

The Morgan Library currently has a first edition on display in their collection of music manuscripts