(Hugh Talman / NMAH, SI)
Star Spangled Banner
1814, American History Museum
The tattered cloth that became one of America’s greatest icons
Baltimore seamstress Mary Pickersgill made the giant flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, but Francis Scott Key made it famous, composing, on the morning of September 14, 1814, the lyrics that became the national anthem. Although Key’s words—some lifted from a poem he’d written in 1805—exalted American patriotism, they were set to a tune from the mother country: “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a popular English drinking song.