Rare sheet music for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ owned by York, Pa.’s Barnitz family, to go to auction

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This piece of sheet music bearing the words and music of “The Star Spangled Banner” will be auctioned on Dec. 3. In the 1800s, it was owned by Mary Barnitz of York County, Pa. Also of interest: Northwestern York County flag expert: ‘I was interested in my nation’s heritage’ and Memoir of early-American dancer John Durang highlights event and About Davy Crockett in York: ‘He is the biggest fool I ever saw’
On Dec 3, Christie’s will offer a rare first edition of the lyrics and music
of Francis Scott Key’s “The Star Spangled Banner,” worth an estimated $280,000-$300,000. (Update: The artifact reportedly sold for more than $500,000.)
According to a Christie’s release, it is the only known copy in private hands, one of 11 known copies. The others are in institutions or university libraries.
And the action item has at least two York connections… .


The first is that the sheet music was in the hands of Mary Barnitz, a member of one of the most prominent York families in the 19th century:
This comes from the Christie’s release:

The name of Miss Mary Barnitz, written in the bound album of old sheet music, links this great rarity to the Barnitz and Spangler families, two of the foremost early families of York County, Pennsylvania. Family members fought in the Revolutionary War and in the War of 1812. Mary Barnitz (1793-1886) was a young girl when the Star-Spangled Banner was published in Baltimore. It and the other sheet music in the album were probably bound up about 1820, and it is likely to have been used in impromptu musical gatherings of this very musical family. Its subsequent ownership is unknown. Years later the tattered album was purchased by the present owner in a small Pennsylvania auction. He was surprised and gratified to discover in it the rare first edition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It was not until 1931 that the song was officially recognized as the national anthem, although it was often used as such before that date.

The second local connection relates to the famous Durang family of York. Charles and Ferdinand Durang are said to have matched words and music of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Researcher June Lloyd has researched that claim and found the Durang link to be a bit tenuous. You can read her findings at: York, Pa.’s Durang family of actors linked with national anthem .
This piece of sheet music, an interesting piece of York County’s past, will be auctioned on Dec. 3.
It will be interesting to find out its new owner. Given the document’s York links, perhaps the new owner will allow it to be put on display at the York County Heritage Trust some day.
Details:
Auction: Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts including Americana Dec. 3
Viewing: Christie’s Rockefeller Galleries,through Dec. 2
Website filled with info on the sheet music: Christie’s

Also of interest:

Durangs rank as candidates for York County arts & entertainment hall of fame..
Charles Barnitz among the most influential citizens in York County’ past.
Archives:
All York Town Square posts from the start. (Key word search by using “find” on browser.)
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About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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