What so proudly we hail

Towson's own patriot, John Charles Linthicum, had "Star-Spangled Banner" declared national anthem

Portrait of John Charles LinthicumTOWSON, Md. (June 18, 2012)—Next time "The Star-Spangled Banner" greets your ears, give a nod of recognition to U.S. Rep. John Charles Linthicum, an 1886 graduate of the Maryland State Normal School (now Towson University). It was his persistence that led Congress to finally approve the song in 1931 as the U.S. national anthem.

Linthicum spent 13 years battling objections to “The Star- Spangled Banner.” Prohibitionists objected to using the tune of an old English drinking song, "To Anacreon in Heaven." Opera stars and musicians complained about a song “that exceeded the range of the ordinary voice,” while some ministers and pacifists condemned Francis Scott Key's lyrics as celebrating the horrors of war.

Undeterred, Linthicum, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1911 to 1932, first had Fort McHenry preserved as a national monument.

In 1918, he introduced a bill to designate “The Star- Spangled Banner” as the national anthem, according to Francis Scott Key and the National Anthem, a 1947 book by Edward S. Delaplaine. That bill failed. So did similar bills in 1921, 1923 and 1925.

Linthicum tried again in 1929, but this time he had a petition that contained 5 million signatures and the support of 150 groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Daughters of America. When opponents argued that the song was pitched too high for popular singing, Linthicum was instrumental in bringing about a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee where two sopranos sang and the Navy Band played.

His comments in the 1930 Congressional Record explain why he believed so strongly in the power of "The Star- Spangled Banner” to uplift and inspire his fellow Americans:

“. . . This song of Key’s aroused the dormant patriotism of the Nation, for human nature could not withstand its irresistible appeal to the love of country. It lifted the national spirit from the vale of gloom and despair in which it had been floundering to the unlit heights of confidence in victory. It heralded the dawn of a new day to our Federal government. In moral value it was worth 10,000 bayonets.”

Thanks to Linthicum’s words and effort, "The Star- Spangled Banner” became the national anthem on March 3, 1931, under the signature of President Herbert Hoover.

John Charles Linthicum died in Baltimore on Oct. 5, 1932. He is interred in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville, Md.






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