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Postcard from the past: No National Anthem

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dick Perue

So declares a headline above an editorial in the Jan. 1, 1909 Grand Encampment Herald, accompanied by the following article:

The U.S. has no national anthem. No one of the patriotic songs tells of American achievement, American glory or American ideals. The lack is again made notable by a Washington dispatch telling of the experiences in connection with the world encircling voyages of the fleet.

In most places where the fleet was received, so the story goes, the people were prompt and vigorous in the delivery of an appropriate song. This was followed by an attempt on the part of the American guests to render “The Star Spangled Banner.” 

The singers rarely were able to proceed with the song for more than three lines. In pure shame, the officers were driven to the arrangement of rehearsals of the anthem so as to make a better showing. But the results were discouraging.

Americans at home succeed no better than those abroad. They do not know the words of “The Star Spangled Banner.” If they do, they cannot sing the song. 

“America” is suitable for some occasions. It is sung better than any other of the patriotic songs, particularly by children, but it is not of the type demanded for such a time of felicitation as an international exchange of greetings on the visit of a fleet.

The experiences of officers and men on the cruise of the fleet around the world are likely to be repeated again and again, now that the U.S. has become a world power. 

A good lively song, set to swinging music, easily adaptable to chorus rendition and expressing in well-chosen words the ideals of America, is much needed. 

Many of the colleges in the country have splendid alma mater songs. There is an opportunity for someone with the right gifts of poetry and music to immortalize himself by writing an American song which everyone can sing and which will tell to every listener the story of American accomplishments.

Evidently, the opinion expressed in the editorial didn’t gain much ground as shown in this news item in the May 26, 1927 issue of the Wyoming State Tribune:

We Have No National Anthem 

Failure of 961 musical composers in the contest to produce a substitute for “The Star Spangled Banner” as a national anthem has brought out the probably little known fact there is officially no American national anthem. 

The military have adopted “The Star Spangled Banner,” and the people have generally followed their example. 

Many compositions submitted to the music jury are said to be good, but not good enough “to sweep the people off their feet” as a national anthem should. – Warren (O.) Tribune.

According to an article on the internet, the “Star Spangled Banner” was officially ratified as the national anthem on March 3, 1931.

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