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The Star Spangled Banner

The Star Spangled BannerThe Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem of the United States.

The lyrics come from a poem written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. Key, a 35-year-old amateur poet, wrote "Defence of Fort McHenry" after seeing the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland by British ships in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812.

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight, O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep, Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam, In full glory reflected now shines in the stream: 'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion, A home and a country should leave us no more! Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave: And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved home and the war's desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: "In God is our trust." And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Quick Facts about the Star-Spangled Banner Flag

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




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