Ceremony features unveiling of Fort McHenry postal card

September 08, 1997|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

In a soggy, rain-shortened ceremony last night, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a new commemorative postal card featuring the image of Baltimore's Fort McHenry -- birthplace of the national anthem.

The U.S. Postal Service has printed 28 million of the 20-cent postal cards, adorned with an aerial photograph of the fort taken by Baltimore photographer Greg Pease in 1986, as part of a series of historic preservation cards.

Hundreds of spectators gathered for the ceremony and fireworks at the fort yesterday evening. But as a plucky band of elaborately dressed soldiers fired their muskets at an imaginary line of British troops, the rain began.

Conditions soon resembled those of the bombardment of Sept. 13 through Sept. 14, 1814, when both rain and British rockets pelted Fort McHenry. The fort's survival prompted a witness to the bombardment, lawyer Francis Scott Key, to pen "The Star-Spangled Banner."

But even as the mock soldiers fought on last night, many of the spectators fled to their cars. Postal and Park Service officials huddled under a plastic tarp beneath a light tower. After the half-hour shower, more than a hundred spectators returned to their seats.

"All these ones who defended Baltimore fought in the rain," said Jean Bushnell, a retired nurse from Boonsboro. "So if it doesn't lightning, what does it matter if it rains a little. -- It's only water."

The Postal Service has for several years issued historic preservation postal cards, commemorating such landmarks as San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the U.S. Capitol building.

In 1990, a postal card featured the Baltimore Inner Harbor and the frigate Constellation.

Those who attended yesterday's ceremony received Fort McHenry cards with a "First Day of Issue" postmark from the Baltimore Post Office.

Pub Date: 9/08/97

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