Ending the War of 1812
Saving The Star Spangled Banner
The original flag that Francis Scott Key saw in the morning light and wrote his poem about was commissioned by Major George Armistead, who commanded Ft. McHenry. The government hired Mary Pickersgill, a woman from Baltimore, to sew the flag. Two flags were made, one extra large and one small. The flag that was flown the morning after the battle, which Key wrote about, was enormous! It was originally 30 feet by 42 ft, which is larger than most American flags we see today. It had to be made huge so that those far away – like Francis Scott Key and General Ross, miles away from Ft. McHenry on the British ship – could see it!
The Original Star Spangled Banner
Today you can view the original “Star-Spangled Banner” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. It looks a bit different, though! For one, only a portion of the flag is left because after the flag was brought down, Major Armistead held onto it, and his family gave away small snippets of the flag – including 1 star – to special guests who would come to visit, such as veterans and government officials. Those who received these cuttings of the flag treated the pieces with honor and displayed them with pride, some framing them in their homes, and others donated their pieces of flag to museums. The Smithsonian today has thirteen pieces from the original “Star-Spangled Banner” in its collections. While the flag cannot be reconstructed and looks a little odd being cut up, these pieces give clues to our national flag’s history and the details that make the original so unique and priceless.