The Story Behind the Star Spangled Banner - page 3 | History | Smithsonian
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A conservator works on the Star-Spangled Banner in 1914. (Corbis)

The Story Behind the Star Spangled Banner

How the flag that flew proudly over Fort McHenry inspired an anthem and made its way to the Smithsonian

smithsonian.com

(Continued from page 2)

After Georgiana's death, the flag passed to Eben Appleton, Armistead's grandson, who loaned it to the city of Baltimore for the 1880 sesquicentennial celebration. It then remained in a safe-deposit vault in New York City until Appleton loaned it to the Smithsonian in 1907. Five years later, he made the gift permanent, saying he wanted it to belong "to the Institution in the country where it could be conveniently seen by the public and where it would be well cared for."

When the flag arrived at the Smithsonian it was smaller (30 by 34 feet), damaged from years of use at the fort and from pieces being removed as souvenirs. Recognizing its need for repair, the Smithsonian hired Amelia Fowler, an embroidery teacher and well-known flag preserver, in 1914 to replace the canvas backing that had been added in 1873. Having worked on historic flags for the United States Naval Academy, Fowler had patented a method of supporting fragile flags with a linen backing that required a honeycomb pattern of stitches. With the help of ten needlewomen, Fowler spent eight weeks on the flag, receiving $1,243 for the materials and work.

For the next 50 years, with the exception of a brief move during World War II, the Star-Spangled Banner was displayed in what is now the Arts and Industries Building. Because of the flag's size and the dimensions of the glass case it was displayed in, the public never saw the entire flag while it was housed in this location.

That changed after architects designed the new National Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History, with space to allow the flag to hang. The Star-Spangled Banner remained in Flag Hall from 1964 until 1999, when it was moved to the conservation lab.

With the recent completion of the project, the Star-Spangled Banner will remain an icon of American history that can still be seen by the public. Says Glass, "The survival of this flag for nearly 200 years is a visible testimony to the strength and perseverance of this nation, and we hope that it will inspire many more generations to come."

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