The Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner (HM4L)

Location: Washington, DC 20007
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 54.295', W 77° 4.136'

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The Flag. The immortal words "star-spangled Banner" refer to the magnificent flag which Francis Scott Key saw "by the dawn's early light" after the British bombardment of Fort McHenry on September 14, 1814. It is the largest flag ever flown in battle in U.S. history.

During preparations to defend Baltimore's vital seaport and center of commerce during the War of 1812, the commander of Fort McHenry, Major George Armistead, wanted a flag so big "that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance." Armistead wanted a "suitable ensign," a clear signal of American resolve.

Mary Young Pickersgill, a "maker of colours," was commissioned to make the new flag. With her 13-year-old daughter Caroline, the work began. Each stripe, eight red and seven white, was two feet wide. Every star, fifteen in all, spanned spanned two feet from point to point. The completed flag weighed eighty pounds!

The Star-Spangled Banner, immortalized by Francis Scott Key, is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

The Anthem. Originally entitled The Defence of Ft. McHenry, Francis Scott Key's poem effectively dramatized the bombardment, the flag, and the sentiment of the times. Key's stirring verses were soon set to a popular tune of the day. The song, To Anacreon in Heaven,* has been attributed to John Stafford Smith and was sung by the members of the Anacreontic Society, an English music and social club. However, the melody had become familiar to many Americans who knew it as the patriotic song, Adams and Liberty, by Robert Treat Paine. When Key's lyrics were set to this music, it became known as The Star-Spangled Banner.

In George Town, nine years before the British bombardment of Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key composed a poem to commemorate the victory of Commodore Stephen Decatur and his brave men over the Tripolitan pirates during the Barbary Wars. The poem contains the words, "the star-spangled flag," has the same metric composition, has the same length verses, and was set to the same tune: To Anacreon in Heaven. Moreover, the stanzas have the same repetitive last lines in both songs. So it was at his George Town home that the idea of The Star-Spangled Banner was born.

The American people quickly adopted The Star-Spangled Banner as the song to be sung on patriotic occasions. The greatest boost came during the Civil War when it was sung by Union troops. Later the Army required that it be played each day at flag lowering. The Navy ordered it played at morning and evening colors. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson declared it the Armed Forces' official anthem.

On March 3rd, 1931 President Herbert Hoover signed the law making The Star-Spangled Banner the official National Anthem. As the anthem of the United States of America, these words and the melody are renowned throughout the world.

*Anacreon was a lyric poet of Ancient Greece.
HM NumberHM4L
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 at 11:14am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 320599 N 4308259
Decimal Degrees38.90491667, -77.06893333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 54.295', W 77° 4.136'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 54' 17.70" N, 77° 4' 8.16" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)202
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 3508-3512 US-29, Washington DC 20007, US
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