Key's manuscript to appear with 'Banner' that inspired it

Flag at Smithsonian will be paired with original document from Md. Historical Society

January 09, 2014|Mary Carole McCauley, The Baltimore Sun

Some things just naturally go together, like peanut butter and jelly.

This summer, Francis Scott Key's original manuscript for "The Star-Spangled Banner" — America's national anthem — will be reunited for the first time with the flag that inspired it.

"The National Museum of American History is proud to be the home of the iconic Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key in 1814 to write passionate lyrics after the relentless but ultimately unsuccessful British bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry," John Gray, director of the National Museum of American History in Washington, writes on the Smithsonian Institution's website (

"His song became our national anthem in 1931. Both the anthem and the banner are the most recognized symbols of our country and this year, the flag will serve as a lens through which we will present exhibitions, programs and special events to allow our visitors to examine American identity and to celebrate our shared culture."

The fragile, 30' by 34' wool and cotton flag long has been the centerpiece of the American History Museum. Key's manuscript, which is being loaned by the Maryland Historical Society, will join it from June 14 through July 6 in an environmentally controlled chamber.

Low lights will protect both historic artifacts, though an Institution spokesman writes that these conditions actually are a plus because they "dramatically evoke an atmosphere of 'dawn's early light,' similar to what Key experienced on the morning of Sept. 14, 1814."

Entrance to the Smithsonian, as always, will be free.

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