What The Star-Spangled Banner Really Means to America

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Original Star-Spangled Banner

The original Star-Spangled Banner, pictured above, is the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that would become our national anthem. It is among the most treasured artifacts in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Some Americans want the Star Spangled Banner replaced as our national anthem. Perhaps you agreed. After watching this video, you will feel very differently. It is what the United States is about.

Whitney Houston sings a beautiful rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner in the video below.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER

  • Made in Baltimore, Maryland, in July-August 1813 by flagmaker Mary Pickersgill
  • Commissioned by Major George Armistead, commander of Fort McHenry
  • Original size: 30 feet by 42 feet
  • Current size: 30 feet by 34 feet
  • Fifteen stars and fifteen stripes (one star has been cut out)
  • Raised over Fort McHenry on the morning of September 14, 1814, to signal American victory over the British in the Battle of Baltimore; the sight inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner”
  • Preserved by the Armistead family as a memento of the battle
  • First loaned to the Smithsonian Institution in 1907; converted to permanent gift in 1912
  • On exhibit at the National Museum of American History since 1964
  • Major, multi-year conservation effort launched in 1998
  • Plans for new permanent exhibition gallery now underway

MAKING THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER

In June 1813, Major George Armistead arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, to take command of Fort McHenry, built to guard the water entrance to the city. Armistead commissioned Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore flag maker, to sew two flags for the fort: a smaller storm flag (17 by 25 ft) and a larger garrison flag (30 by 42 ft). She was hired under a government contract and was assisted by her daughter, two nieces, and an indentured African-American girl.

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