The Star-Spangled Banner: The Flag that Inspired the National Anthem
On September 14, 1814, U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of those “broad stripes and bright stars” inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that eventually became the United States national anthem. Key’s words gave new significance to a national symbol and started a tradition through which generations of Americans have invested the flag with their own meanings and memories.

The permanent exhibition, "The Star-Spangled Banner: The Flag that Inspired the National Anthem," is the Smithsonian’s greatest effort to meet the dual challenge of preserving this treasured flag and communicating to visitors its history and significance. A two-story display chamber protects the flag while providing a dramatic view of its “broad stripes and bright stars.”

Visit the online exhibition.

You Asked, We Answer: Why can't I take a picture of the Star-Spangled Banner? Find the answer on our blog.
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