Welcome to the official website of an original American documentary produced for national public television. Francis Scott Key was an extraordinary individual universally known for his writing of The Star Spangled Banner, but his career is surprisingly much broader, more encompassing and reflects a person whose life journey has had great influence on America as a whole. We hope you’ll support the program however you can and enjoy learning about this man and his relevance to society even today.

FSK - Curicculum Vitae

(August 1, 1779 - January 11, 1843) Maryland-born lawyer, author, and amateur poet, also wrote the lyrics to America's national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”.

Work experience

Major Childhood InfluencesSummer - 1791

TERRA RUBRA, FREDERICK, MARYLAND

At 12 years old, met President George Washington, my childhood hero, during his visit to family home. Washington suggested that I continue with my schooling as long as possible.

First Major Legal Case1807

REPRESENTED SWOTORT AND BOLLMAN IN CONNECTION WITH AARON BURR TREASON CASE

Argued for clients up to the Supreme Court to reverse President Jefferson’s order to suspend writ of habeas corpus; court favor of my clients who were not only freed, but declared innocent of high treason.

First Significant Connection to War of 18121812

SETTLED ESTATE OF GENERAL JAMES LINGAN

My client General James Lingan was killed in the Baltimore riots surrounding anti-war protests. The Pro-war protestors attempted to burn down an anti-war newspaper office which General Lingan was trying to protect. This cemented my anti-war sentiments.

Enlisted in US Army Reserves1813

PRECIPITATED BY BRITISH ATTACK ON HARVE DE GRACE

When the British attacked the town of Harve De Grace, it sparked my patriotism as our family continued to own some plantation land in the area, and so we were now defending our homeland from a foreign enemy. With my patriotic sentiments now fired, I became an officer in the reserve army primarily for two reasons: - my education and the fact that I could afford to buy the uniform.

Battle of Bladensburg24 August, 1814

FIRST PARTICIPATION IN A MAJOR BATTLE

I was a junior officer in an artillery unit, but I found it more interesting to give advice to the generals who were defending Washington, DC.

Battle of Baltimore1812

PARTICIPATED IN SUCCESSFUL PRISONER EXCHANGE NEGOTIATIONS

My dear friend Dr. William Beans was taken prisoner by the British for treason after the Battle of Bladensburg. I asked President Madison personally if I could negotiate for his release. Colonel Skinner and I were successful in convincing the British to release Beans, victim of a misunderstanding, but we were all detained until the British were done attacking Baltimore. The rather large flag at Fort McHenry impressed me and I wrote a little poem that got published in a local newspaper. The resulting fame dominated the rest of my life

American Bible Society1816 - 1843

FOUNDING VICE-PRESIDENT

World famous at this point and hating it, I realized that my fame might help me achieve great things, so I pitched in to organize this major religious organization and thereby became responsible for spreading God’s word.

American Colonization Society21 December, 1817

CO-FOUNDER AND PRO-BONO LEGAL REPRESENTATION

Having a hard time getting work, I turned to my other major interest in helping to end slavery, I was part of the founding and management of this organization that became unfairly demonized by abolitionists and later referred to as the “Back to Africa” movement and embraced by President Lincoln.

Defended Sam Houston in a high profile trial1833-1832

HOUSTON WAS INVOLVED IN AN ALTERCATION WITH A U.S. CONGRESSMAN

Shortly afterwards Sam Houston relocated to Coahuila y Tejas, then a Mexican state, and became a leader of the Texas Revolution.

Prosecutor for District of Columbia1833-1841

APPOINTED BY PRESIDENT ANDREW JACKSON

1833 - Successfully negotiated a settlement of Creek Indian situation in Georgia that resulted in stopping Georgia from seceding from the union and starting a civil war. 1835. The plight of the American Indians so moved me that I joined an organiztion to help their cause and there met Noah Webster of the dictionary fame who had the same views. - Also Prosecuted Richard Lawrence for his unsuccessful attempt to assassinate President Jackson. 1836. President Jackson was convinced this was an overthrow plot but I determined this genentlman was simply mad. The presendent never fogave me for that.

Ended the "Snow Riots" 1835

CALLED IN THE ARMY AND PROSECUTING ARTHUR BOWEN THE SLAVE WHO SPARKED IT

Arthur Bowen was a black slave who entered his mistresses boudoir carring an axe. His actions spurred a gang of men who called themselves "The Mechanics" to begin vandalizing Arthur Snow's restraunt. Aruther Snow was a free black man running a respectable establishment in the District. I had to call in the national guard to protect the city as there were only 10 policement in service at the time.

Prosecuted Dr. William Crandall for brining and circulating Abolitionist litereature in Washington, DC 1836

THE "SNOW RIOTS" AND ARTHUR BOWEN'S ACTIONS WERE THE "FIRST FRUIT" OF ABOLITIONIST LITERATURE.

William Crandall was obviously guilty of brining seditious materials into the District but unfortunately, (probably looking back fortunately) the jury found him innocent. My son died in a duel in the same year and that along with the sentiments of President Jackon helped me decide not to continue Prosecution of Mr. Bowen.

helped President Andrew Jackson fill Supreme Court vacancy1836

PER REQUEST OF PRESIDENT JACKSON, CONVINCED BROTHER-IN-LAW TO SERVE AS CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE COURT

Roger B. Tawny became chief justice but our conversations about slavery probably later led to his Dred Scott decision that unfortunately sparked the Civil War.

Star-Spangled Banner becomes national anthem3 March, 1932

MY WORDS SET TO A BRITISH DRINKING SONG WRITTEN AFTER MY WITNESSING 1814 BATTLE OF BALTIMORE

In 1922 Robert Ripley of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” fame brought to national attention the fact that America did not have an official anthem. I was long dead and thought that the song would be forgotten, but apparently it survived. After quite a political battle, my song was finally chosen as our National Anthem and made official by Congress.

Education

St. John's College, Annapolis, MD1789-1800

HS, BA, MA

I started at St. Johns when I was 16. I lived with an uncle and some doting aunts in Annapolis and my uncle Philip Barton Key looked after me. I used to have long golden hair and dressed in a rather feminine style. I quickly changed my tune as it the other boys were not as accepting as my aunts. When arriving at school for the first time I jumped onto the back of a brown cow who bucked wildly and ran around the grounds with me arms locked around his neck, right in front of the main building. I remember that it caused quite a stir.

Other Skills & Experience

Bible expert, amateur poet, philosopher, pacifist, father of six boys and five girls; also tone-deaf, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my descendants

FSK Quotes and Quiz

How much do you know about Francsis Scott Key? Take our quiz below and find out. The quotes below are from letters and speeches by Francis Scott Key. Notice how the subject matter and sentiments are surprisingly familiar and relevant to our time.

But if ever forgetful of her past, our country shall cease to be the land of the free and home of the brave, and become the purchased possession of a company of stock­jobbers and speculators...”
— Francis Scott Key, Speech given at the Old Courthouse lawn, Frederick, Maryland - 1834

You know my opinion about public life-that a man has no more right to decline it than to seek it. I do not know, perhaps, all its dangers, but I have no doubt they are great. But whatever they be, the grace of God is sufficient for them.
— Francis Scott Key, Letter to John Randolph of Roanoke - 1813

There are and ever will be the poor and the rich, the men of labor and the men of leisure, and the state which neglects either neglects a duty, and neglects it at its peril; for whichever it neglects will be not only useless but mischievous.
— Francis Scott Key, speech at St. John’s College, Annapolis - 1827

...he who cheats most will commonly win the game. We should therefore, I think, burn the cards, or give up the game of Party, and then, I believe, the knaves might be made the losers. ‘Keep up party and party spirit!’ should be (if they have any sense) the first and great commandment of the administration to its followers...”
— Francis Scott Key, letter to John Randolph of Roanoke – 1812

Participants

The list below shows the producers and other historical consultants and participants for the dramatic film about Francis Scott Key, (FSK) and the documentary on our national anthem.

Production & Producers

Philip J. Marshall IMDB Bio

Executive Producer, Film Director, Managing Member American Photoplay, LLC


Philip J. Marshall, MPT’s national executive producer and an active Directors Guild of America (DGA) member, will direct FSK. His recent experience and expertise in historical documentaries and earlier career in live action dramatic films, have garnered him national Emmys and a short subject Oscar.

Steven Schupak

Senior, Vice President Programming and Production for Maryland Public Television


At Maryland Public Television, Mr. Schupak’s responsibilities include overseeing all aspects of current productions and a development slate of national and local programs. Mr. Schupak’s background in the television industry began 25 years ago at the ABC Television Network.

Dan Bailey

Visual Effects Consultant


Dan Bailey’s films and animations have received numerous national and international awards. In 2002, he founded the Visual Arts IRC Fellows program at UMBC, which is designed to recognize, reward and encourage students who have displayed exceptional artistic talent in computer art. In special seminars, the Fellows have worked in many areas of digital art including virtual reality, spherical filmmaking, animation, interactive sound, and networked video.

WILLIAM KRUZYKOWSKI IMDB Bio

Film Editor & Post Production Visual Effects Manager


For more than 20 years, William Kruzykowski has employed his editorial visual effects skills to create documentaries, feature films, and television programs. He has worked with such notable directors as Cameron Crow, Warren Beatty, Elaine May, David Mamet, Paul Newman, and Woody Allen, with whom he has worked on 10 films.

Consultants & Experts

Dan Bailey

Imaging Resource Center (I.R.C.) University of Maryland, Baltimore

Thomas E. Carney, J.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Constitutional History Division, Legal, Ethical and Historical Studies, Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts, University of Baltimore

Glen E. Campbell

Senior Historian, Historic Annapolis Foundation

Linda Christenson, Esq.

Executive Director, Pride of Baltimore, Inc.

Matthew Crenson, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus, Johns Hopkins University, Department of Political Science

Dr. Ralph Eshelman, Ph.D.

Maritime Historian and Author

Christopher T. George

Historian & Author

Alan Gephardt

Seasonal Ranger, Ft. McHenry National Park, National Park Service

Don Hickey, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of History, Wayne State College

Orin Hargraves

Lexicography and Language expert

David Hildebrand, Ph.D.

Musicologist, Colonial Music Institute

Burton K. Kummerow

Director, Maryland Historical Society

John Maass, Ph.D.

United States Army Center for Military History

Gregory J. Nedved

Trustee, The National Museum of Language, College Park, MD

Edward C Papenfuse, Ph.D.

Maryland State Archivist & Commissioner of Land Patents

Jill Robbins, Ph.D.

Trustee, National Museum of Language, College Park, MD

George Russell, Ph.D.

American History, St. John’s College, Annapolis, MD

Philip H. Towner, Ph.D.

Dean, NIDA Institute for Biblical Scholarship, American Bible Society

Vince Vaise

Park Ranger, Ft. McHenry National Park, National Park Service

Steve Vogel

National Staff Writer, The Washington Post

 

FSK News

We'll update this section with the public news releases about the production of FSK, the 200th anniversary celebration in Baltimore and more. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-date information.

Maryland Public Television kicks off major dramatic production on life of Francis Scott Key, MPT, November 21, 2011

Star-Spangled Banner Flags Available from Maryland Small Business, Star-Spangled 200, Inc., Nov. 8, 2011

History Detectives Discover Original "Star-Spangled Banner" Manuscript, MPT, February 16, 2012

O! Say will you see… Francis Scott Key’s Story On Public Television?, MPT, September 26, 2013

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Conferences & Events

This section will include information about upcoming events and conferences related to the life and story of Francis Scott Key.

What is a script conference?

We want to make FSK as historically accurate as possible and so we are have already gathered together a group of expert participants (listed on this website) at MPT studio’s last November to discuss the script and direction we’ll take in shaping the dramatic story. We videotaped the entire day at MPT, and we’ll provide it to our selected screenwriter. Supporters and crowd funders can witness and participate in this studio event. More events like this are planned for the future and open to the public. The segment below is a selection of participants' comments on Francis Scott Key's personality. We hope you will enjoy it! We plan to do a follow up script conference in the early May after we have hired the screenwriter.

Contact

Email Us

Links

War of 1812 - Committee
Star-Spangled 200
Operation Sail
Ft. McHenry National Park
US NAVY 1812 Celebrations
Pride of Baltimore
Maryland Historical Society
The Flag House Museum
Historical Society of Frederick County
Historical Annapolis Foundation
Maryland State Archives
Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of Language
The Colonial Music Institute