The US National Anthem Was Written Aboard This Made-In-India Ship

HMS Minden was a Royal Navy 74-gun Ganges-class, ‘third-rate’ ship of the line, launched on 19 June 1810. She was launched from the Duncan Docks in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, and was built of teak.

Wadias: The Ship-Builders Who Made HMS Minden

Jamshedji Bomanji Wadia (Photo Courtesy: Zoroastrian.org)

The Wadia (‘shipbuilder’) family had established itself in Surat for many centuries. Lovji Nusserwanji Wadia became well known for his high standards of shipbuilding workmanship. The British East India Company secured the services of Lovji for building docks and ships in Bombay in 1736. The Bombay dry-dock, the first dry-dock in Asia, was built by Lovji and his brother Sorabji in 1750. Lovji’s son, Jamshedji Bomanji Wadia, received the order to construct the HMS Minden on 9 July 1801. Minden sailed from Bombay on 8 February 1811 on her first cruise.

Soon after the beginning of the War of 1812, the British blockaded Chesapeake Bay in the newly formed United States. This two-year-long war was also to set the boundaries between the US and Canada.

Francis Scott Key, lawyer and poet. (Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Francis Scott Key was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet from Georgetown. During the War of 1812, Key, accompanied the British Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner on board the HMS Minden. Skinner and Key were there to negotiate the release of prisoners. They were, however, not allowed to return to their own sloop because they now knew about the British intent to attack Baltimore. Key was unable to do anything but watch the bombarding of the American forces at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on the night between 13 and 14 September 1814.

“By Dawn’s Early Light” 1912 painting by Edward Moran (Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia)

“By Dawn’s Early Light” 1912 painting by Edward Moran depicts the moment of the morning of 14 September 1814. Francis Scott Key with his compatriots Colonel John Skinner and Dr William Beanes spy the American flag waving above Baltimore’s Fort Mc Henry. This inspired Key to write the work to become the American national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

Francis Scott Key’s original manuscript copy of his ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ poem. It is now on display at the Maryland Historical Society. (Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia)

More than a century after its first publication, the song was adopted as the American national anthem, first by an Executive Order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

The Wadia shipbuilding family’s descendants are among India’s illustrious businessmen too. Bombay Dyeing Chairman Nusli Wadia is one of them.