John Stafford Smith

Though an Englishman, John Stafford Smith's compositional output is woven into the fabric of American culture: he composed the tune of what became America's national anthem,"The Star-Spangled Banner."

Photo: John Stafford Smith, 1822.

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Born in Gloucester, John Stafford Smith was best known as a glee composer, though many of his songs and madrigals are innovative and unique. For example, his piece “Sweet Poet of the Woods” employs quarter-tones.

After joining the Anacreontic Society in 1766, Smith composed “Anacreon To Heaven” for the singing and drinking club. The tune of this song became that of America’s national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Also considered the first English musicologist, Smith collected thousands of priceless manuscripts and publications, copiously researched and wrote about the history of music. His publication Musica Antiqua provided scholars with a much-needed and well-researched history of music.

–Christie Finn

Related Information



The Singing Club

(John Stafford Smith)


George Washington: Portrait in Song

(William Billings, Philip Phile and John Stafford Smith)


Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Contralto

(John Alden Carpenter, Stephen Foster, Ethelbert Nevin and John Stafford Smith)


Songs of America

(William Bolcom, Charles Wakefield Cadman, Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Stephen Foster, Charles Ives, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, Sergius Kagen, Theodore Roethke, Ned Rorem, Carl Sandburg, William Jay Smith and Gertrude Stein)


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