Star Spangled Banner

Date: 1794 - 1818

Description: Fifteen red and white stripes. Fifteen five-pointed stars in blue canton. [E04]

This flag was the official flag of the United States under six presidents - Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Madison, and Monroe.

On January 13, 1794, Congress passed an act providing that after May 1, 1795, the National Flag should have 15 stars and 15 stripes. The two additional stars and stripes represented the recently admitted states of Vermont and Kentucky.

This flag was used for the next 24 years. Even though it was the official flag, five new states were admitted to the Union during that time period.

It was first flown over the Capitol in Washington on Nov. 17, 1800, when Congress met for the first time in the recently completed building.

The flag flew above Fort McHenry at Baltimore, MD when the British attacked on September 13, 1814. Francis Scott Key, a lawyer, was detained overnight on a British ship while seeking the release of a prisoner. The sight of the flag still flying over the fortress the next morning inspired him to write the poem, "The Star Spangled Banner," later to be adopted as our National Anthem. Legend holds that when Francis Scott Key had last seen the fort, there was no American flag flying over it. The next morning, the flag was waving proudly in the inland breeze.

When the British Navy sailed into Chesapeake Bay, Major Armistead, the American commander of Fort McHenry, realized that Baltimore would be attacked after Washington had been burned. Baltimore was guarded by only the fort.

He immediately sought out Mrs. Mary Pickersgill who lived on Albermarle St. in Baltimore. (Her home is now a museum.) She and her two nieces worked day and night sewing a huge flag - 32 feet, 10 inches by 27 feet, six inches. On the 13th of September the flag was raised of the fort. That night the British began their bombardment.

The stars were in 5 rows of three each. Other sources claim that the flag was 52 feet by 30 feet and weighed over 200 lbs. The flag especially sewn for the battle, never flew again.

It also flew on the ship Constitution (Boston - "Old Ironsides") during the War of 1812.

The Stars and Stripes at the Museum of American History.

History of all Stars and Stripes flags . . .