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Star-spangled salute

WASHINGTON D.C. - This coming Sunday the U.S. will again mark Flag Day on June 14. It commemorates the adoption on June 14, 1777 of the U.S. flag by the Second Continental Congress. However, the nation’s most famous flag was celebrated 201 years ago when in 1814 Francis Scott Key penned the Star Spangled Banner after seeing the U.S. flag survive the British bombardment on Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Ma. The famed flag at Fort McHenry was created by Mary Pickersgill in 1813 and originally measured 1,260 square feet. While the British couldn’t destroy the flag, love and time have taken their toll. Over the past two centuries, sections of the historic flag were snipped as keepsakes and it has been damaged by light and dust. In 1999 the Star-Spangled Banner was moved to a specially built conservation lab at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH). It features a glass wall so visitors can watch the preservation in process. The National Museum of American History is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue in Washington D.C. It is open daily, except Christmas day, and admission is free to the public.

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Photo by Photos courtesy Smithsonian NMAH

For 30 years, from 1964 to 1994, the Star-Spangled Banner hung visible to the public in the National Museum of American History’s Flag Hall.

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Photo by Photos courtesy Smithsonian NMAH

It wasn’t Betsy Ross who crafted America’s most famous flag, but Mary Pickersgill, who was paid $405.90 to create for Fort McHenry a garrison flag that would eventually become known as the Star-Spangled Banner.

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Photo by Photos courtesy Smithsonian NMAH

Not only has the original Star-Spangled Banner been preserved over the past two centuries, so, too, has the Smithsonian maintained the flag-making tools from the early 1800s.

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Photo by Photos courtesy Smithsonian NMAH

This graphic from the Smithsonian shows how the size of the original Star-Spangled Banner compared to the dimensions of Mary Pickersgill’s home. She and four or five helpers created the flag over a period of seven weeks in 1813. The flag-making operation had to be moved to a brewery because more room was required.

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Photo by Photos courtesy Smithsonian NMAH

Cannon fire didn’t destroy the Star-Spangled Banner, but patriotism nearly did. Pictured from the Smithsonian’s collection is one of many sections cut from the flag and shared as family keepsakes and gifts.

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Photo by Photos courtesy Smithsonian NMAH

Since 1999, the flag made famous by Francis Scott Key has been undergoing a conservation effort in a lab at the National Museum of American History. The lab includes a 50-foot long glass wall so museum visitors can witness the preservation first hand.

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