Who was Francis Scott Key? All you need to know about the former attorney whose namesake bridge collapsed in Baltimore

A renowned commercial vessel struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, causing it to collapse early on Tuesday morning. Know about the person behind whom the bridge was named.

Published on Mar 28, 2024  |  12:58 PM IST |  23.4K
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
Key Highlight
  • Francis Scott Key as an American lawyer, author, and poet from Frederick, Maryland
  • He is best known as the author of the text of the American national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner

Trigger Warning: This article contains references to a tragic bridge collapse and death.

Francis Scott Key was remembered for a significant bridge that fell in Baltimore following a ship's collision. Two people have been recovered from the catastrophe, while six more are still missing. It is feared that there may be a large number of casualties.

Francis Scott Key created the national anthem of the United States

The national anthem of the United States was created by Key based on his experiences during the early 19th-century battle. In the early half of the 1800s, Key was one of the area's prominent attorneys. He was on a ship negotiating the release of American prisoners when he saw the British bombardment of Fort McHenry for 25 hours in September 1814, two years after the United States and the British had begun the War of 1812.

Francis Scott Key Bridge

The 35-year-old Key observed that the American flag remained at the top of the fort come daybreak, having been up through the hours of darkness from his location overlooking the Patapsco River. He later turned it into poetry. Key's one of the original lines reads, 'And the rocket’s red glare, the bomb bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.'


Originally composed to the tune of a British ballad, Defense of Fort M'Henry eventually evolved into The Star-Spangled Banner. It gained popularity as a patriotic hymn over the 19th century. The song was declared the nation's anthem by then-President Herbert Hoover in March 1931.

In 1977, the Maryland bridge bearing his name was inaugurated. The anthem has four stanzas altogether, the most well-known of which is the opening one; in the third, there's a reference made to a slave.

Key- a controversial figure

According to the National Park Service's Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Key, whose family owned slaves and who owned enslaved people himself, favored the notion of sending free Black people to Africa but opposed the abolition of slavery in the United States. In certain circles, his background has made him a controversial figure.

Francis Scott Key

More about Francis Scott Key

Key was born on August 1, 1779, into an affluent family. After receiving his degree from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1796, he studied law under his uncle Philip Barton Key, a War of Independence supporter of the British Crown. On January 1, 1802, he married Mary Tayloe Lloyd.

During his forty years as an attorney, Key practiced in Maryland and Washington, D.C. He worked on significant matters, such as the Burr conspiracy trial, and he had multiple Supreme Court arguments. Andrew Jackson recommended him for the position of District Attorney for the District of Columbia, which he held from 1833 until 1841. Devout Episcopalian, that he was, Key passed away at the age of 63 on January 11, 1843, at the Baltimore home of his daughter Elizabeth Howard.

ALSO READ: Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse: Maryland Gov Wes Moore reveals account from a survivor who witnessed deadly incident


Know more about Francis Scott Key Bridge

Where is the Francis Scott Key Bridge located?
The 1.6-mile bridge connects Baltimore's Inner Harbor to the Chesapeake Bay by crossing the Patapsco River. The bridge was a vital part of Interstate 695, which allowed traffic to travel north and south through Baltimore. There were two lanes of traffic in each direction on the structure, divided by a concrete divider.

How many people were rescued after the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed?
According to CBS News, two people were rescued and six of them were presumed to be dead.

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