The Star-Spangled Banner: The Making of an American Icon

June 23, 2008

Smithsonian Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, today releases “The Star-Spangled Banner: The Making of an American Icon.” The dramatic story of the flag that inspired the national anthem—and of the Smithsonian’s effort to save it for generations to come—is told here for the first time in lavishly illustrated form. Featuring a wide range of flag-inspired images and motifs, the book explores the broader meaning of the American flag in American life. The book is co-authored by current and former museum curators Lonn Taylor, Kathleen M. Kendrick, Jeffrey L. Brodie and features a foreword by Ralph Lauren.

“We are pleased to announce the publication of this important book,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the National Museum of American History. “This flag is a tangible reminder of the early days of this nation; the survival of this flag is a testimony to the strength and perseverance of this nation and we hope that it will inspire many more generations to come.”

In fall 2008, the newly conserved flag will be the centerpiece of the historic renovation and reopening of the National Museum of American History. The 30 x 34 foot banner will be displayed in a specially constructed, climate-controlled room at the heart of the museum in an environment evoking an atmosphere of the “dawn’s early light,” similar to what Francis Scott Key experienced on the morning of Sept. 14, 1814, when he was inspired to pen his famous poem.

The Star-Spangled Banner Preservation Project is made possible by major support from Polo Ralph Lauren. Generous support is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the U.S. Congress and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The conservation project is part of Save America’s Treasures, a public-private project of the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The 15-star, 15-stripe garrison flag, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, was made in 1813 by Mary Pickersgill as commissioned by Lt. Col. George Armistead to fly over Fort McHenry. This flag was flown Sept. 13 and 14, 1814 during the War of 1812 in the Battle of Baltimore. It was taken down during the rainy night and replaced with a smaller storm flag. On the morning of Sept. 14 the banner was hoisted again to the tune of “Yankee Doodle” as the British ships retreated. “By the dawn’s early light,” lawyer Francis Scott Key, who was anxiously awaiting the outcome of the battle on an American ship, saw the flag flying over the fort and was inspired to write the patriotic and defiant words of a poem that became a rallying cry for Americans who had fought their first war as a united nation. The poem was set to music and the song became the national anthem in 1931. The book is priced at $29.95 and will be for sale at local book stores as well as Smithsonian stores where it will be available for mail orders via email at sbvstores@si.edu and by calling: 202-633-6080.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. The museum is closed for major renovations and will re-open in fall 2008. For information, please visit http://americanhistory.si.edu or call Smithsonian Information at (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).