This Week In History: Sept. 14-18

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This week in history we’ll take a look at some of the pivotal events in American history, that for better or worse, have had a long standing effect on our nation’s society and culture. 

Sheet music of “The Star Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key on September 14, 1814. Photo courtesy of @minco on Unsplash.com

On Sept. 14, 1814, 206 years ago, Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.”  

While staying in Maryland during the War of 1812, Key witnessed the British siege of Fort McHenry. As the main line of defense for the port city of Baltimore, Fort McHenry withstood the 24-hour British naval bombardment. After an entire day with no surrender, the British gave up the siege and retreated from Baltimore Harbor. As the legend goes, Key was awe-stricken seeing the American flag still flying over the fort at dawn on Sept. 14 after the smoke and cannon fire finally cleared. 

He took to his quill and penned the immortal words to describe the night as he saw it: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” While Key originally intended his words to only be a poem, they were quickly put to music so every American could hear the tale of the Battle of Fort McHenry. Ironically, the tune of our national anthem comes from the British drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven.”  

While the song remained popular throughout the 19th century, it wasn’t until 1916 that President Woodrow Wilson requested it to be played at all official events. “The Star Spangled Banner” became the United States of America’s national anthem on March 3, 1931, 117 years after Key wrote his first draft. 

On Sept. 16, 1893, 127 years ago, settlers raced to stake their claim on land in the Oklahoma territory. 

Photo of the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, US., part of the Oklahoma Territory first claimed by American settlers on September 16, 1873, 127 years ago. Photo courtesy of @cullenjonez on Unsplash.com.

With the fire of one gunshot, over 100,000 pioneers raced on horseback, wagons and carriages to take the best acres of the Cherokee strip of eastern Oklahoma in the largest land grab of human history. Farmers, ranchers and merchants fought each other over the divided-up squares of the prairie that would eventually become Oklahoma City. Those who tried to claim spots before the pistol shot were deemed “sooners” garnering the state’s nickname. 

Ironically, just a few years before, the arid and treeless landscape of the Oklahoma Great Plains was considered worthless and unsuitable for settlement. White settlement, that is. As part of the U.S. Federal Government’s despicable removal of Native Americans from their homeland, many tribes were relocated to eastern Oklahoma, specifically from the American Southeast. Less than 100 years before, thousands of Cherokee and Choctaw poured into the territory following their forced removal from northern Georgia along the infamous Trail of Tears. Once the land was considered desirable in the 1890s, these same individuals were pushed out and relocated to land leftover.  

On Sept. 15, 1954, 66 years ago, the famous Marilyn Monroe “skirt” scene was shot during the filming of “The Seven Year Itch.” 

Whether or not you have seen “The Seven Year Itch,” or really any Marilyn Monroe film, you certainly have seen the iconic image of Monroe laughing while a subway breeze blows up the skirt of her white dress. Taken at the height of her career, the picture was, and has since been, emblematic of sex in modern America. Moviegoers were shocked to see how risque the film had gone, and none were more shocked than Marilyn’s husband, the baseball all-star, Joe DiMaggio. The shot of one photo caused Hollywood’s “Match of the Century” to file for divorce a few weeks after the movie’s release. 

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Pixabay on Pexels.com.

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