How the flag the flew proud over fort McHenry motivated an anthem and also made its method to the Smithsonian

A conservator functions on the Star-Spangled Banner in 1914. Corbis

On a rainy September 13, 1814, brother warships sent out a shower of shells and rockets onto ft McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, relentlessly pounding the American fort for 25 hours. The bombardment, recognized as the battle of Baltimore, came only weeks after the british had attacked Washington, D.C., burn the Capitol, the Treasury and also the President"s house. That was another chapter in the continuous War of 1812.

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A main earlier, Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer, had boarded the flagship that the brother fleet on the Chesapeake bay in hopes of persuading the brothers to release a friend who had actually recently been arrested. Key"s methods were successful, but due to the fact that he and also his companions had got knowledge the the impending assault on Baltimore, the brother did not let them go. They enabled the americans to go back to their very own vessel however continued guarding them. Under their scrutiny, crucial watched top top September 13 together the barrage of fort McHenry began eight mile away.

"It seemed as despite mother planet had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a paper of fire and brimstone," key wrote later. Yet when darkness arrived, vital saw just red erupting in the night sky. Provided the scale of the attack, that was certain the British would certainly win. The hours passed slowly, but in the clearing acting of "the dawn"s beforehand light" ~ above September 14, he witnessed the American flag—not the british Union Jack—flying end the fort, announcing one American victory.

Key put his think on document while quiet on plank the ship, setup his words come the tune of a popular English song. His brother-in-law, commander of a militia at ft McHenry, read Key"s work and also had it dispersed under the name "Defence of fort M"Henry." The Baltimore Patriot newspaper soon published it, and within weeks, Key"s poem, now dubbed "The Star-Spangled Banner," appeared in print throughout the country, immortalizing his words—and forever specify name the flag it celebrated.

Nearly two centuries later, the flag the inspired an essential still survives, despite fragile and worn by the years. To keep this American icon, professionals at the nationwide Museum of American history recently completed an eight-year conservation treatment v funds from Polo Ralph Lauren, The Pew charity Trusts and the U.S. Congress. And also when the museum reopens in summer 2008, the Star-Spangled Banner will be its centerpiece, shown in its very own state-of-the-art gallery.

"The Star-Spangled Banner is a symbol of American history that ranks with the Statue the Liberty and the Charters that Freedom," claims Brent D. Glass, the museum"s director. "The fact that it has actually been entrusted come the national Museum the American background is one honor."

Started in 1996, the Star-Spangled Banner preservation project—which consists of the flag"s conservation and also the production of its brand-new display in the renovated museum—was planned with the aid of historians, conservators, curators, engineers and organic scientists. Through the construction of the preservation lab completed in 1999, conservators started their work. End the next several years, they clipped 1.7 million stitches indigenous the flag to remove a linen backing that had actually been included in 1914, lifted debris from the flag utilizing dry cosmetics sponges and brushed it with an acetone-water mixture to eliminate soils embedded in fibers. Finally, they included a slim polyester backing to assist support the flag.

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"Our goal to be to expand usable lifetime," states Suzanne Thomassen-Krauss, the conservator for the project. The intent was never to make the flag look together it did when it very first flew over fort McHenry, she says. "We didn"t desire to adjust any that the background written top top the artifact through stains and soil. Those marks phone call the flag"s story."

While the conservators worked, the public looked on. End the years, much more than 12 million people peered into the museum"s glass conservation lab, city hall the progress.

"The Star-Spangled Banner resonates with world in different ways, for various reasons," claims Kathleen Kendrick, curator for the Star-Spangled Banner conservation project. "It"s interesting to realize that you"re looking in ~ the very same flag the Francis Scott vital saw on that September morning in 1814. However the Star-Spangled Banner is more than an artifact—it"s also a nationwide symbol. The evokes powerful emotions and ideas about what it method to be an American."