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INTRODUCTION
LATE 18TH CENTURY
EARLY 19TH CENTURY
LATE 19TH CENTURY
EARLY 20TH CENTURY
LATE 20TH CENTURY
21ST CENTURY
introduction
late 18th century
early 19th century
late 19th century
early 20th century
late 20th century
21st century
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The Banner Yet Waves
200 Years of Star-Spangled History
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The Banner Yet Waves: 200 Years of Star-Spangled History
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introduction
Late 18th Century
Early 19th Century
Late 19th Century
Early 20th Century
Late 20th Century
21st Century

More than just the tale of one flag and the song it inspired, the history of the “Star-Spangled Banner” is also the story of how Americans, often in times of war and popular crisis, have expressed their patriotism and defined their identity as one community and one nation. From the “broad stripes and bright stars” of the flag raised in victory on a Baltimore dawn in 1814 grew a national anthem and a national symbol that still inspires and unites Americans 200 years later. Explore the life of this song and its lyrics through 13 historic renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner. Learn about the changing times and perspectives that have continued to find their voices and their spirits in these words for 200 years.

Click here for a transcript of the Star-Spangled Banner.

american flag waving

The story of The Star-Spangled Banner begins in the 1770s. The song’s melody was written in 1775 or 1776 by John Stafford Smith, a London composer of secular and sacred music, to accompany words written by Ralph Tomlinson. Smith’s tune, Anacreon in Heaven, is often misleadingly described as an old English drinking song, and the song’s foreign, seemingly disreputable origin was advanced in the 1920s as an argument against congressional recognition of The Star-Spangled Banner as a national anthem. However, it was actually the “constitutional song” of a mid- to late-18th century gentlemen’s musical club called the Anacreontic Society, named for the sixth-century B.C.E. Greek poet Anacreon. Anacreon was known for writing a number of short verses in praise of wine and women. Club meetings usually included concerts followed by a cold supper and then more informal singing. The club’s president sometimes performed Anacreon in Heaven solo.

Listen:
The Anacreontic Song (Tomlinson, Stafford Smith, 1775-76)

LEFT: Portrait of a Group of Gentleman, with the Artist (Francis Hayman/Wikimedia Commons)
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Washington Crossing The Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (Bettmann/CORBIS)

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the British Empire established a collection of colonies along the east coast of North America, governing them from across the Atlantic Ocean.

However, colonists in the United States gradually developed an identity of their own and soon tired of what they considered unfair and oppressive governance by the British King and Parliament. The push for independence spread throughout the colonies and was supported by people of all ages and backgrounds, resulting in the successful American Revolution. Although the United States had secured her freedom, she was still involved in a network of trade with the British Empire and shared many cultural similarities with her former motherland. In both England and the United States, for instance, gentlemen’s clubs and fraternal orders, which focused more heavily on the ritual element, were popular social organizations that promoted charitable works and brotherly love, and many of America’s early leaders took part in them. These groups often built bonds through songs that ultimately gained much wider popularity. One club in England, The Anacreontic Society, commissioned John Stafford Smith to put lyrics written by a member of the society to music; this tune would become known throughout the British Empire and was frequently borrowed and parodied. In the United States, “The Anacreontic Song” was a widely recognized melody adapted by many lyricists.

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(Library of Congress)
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John Paul Jones boarding the Serapis. (CORBIS)
Resolution to raise troops, 1778
Resolution to raise troops, 1778 (National Museum of American History)
american flag waving

The first American-born lyric to Stafford Smith’s melody was in An Anacreontic Song. It appears to have been written by one of America’s pioneering composers, Francis Hopkinson, who also signed the Declaration of Independence. Like the London original, the tales and characters of American ‘Anacreontics’ (songs in praise of wine and women) such as this one are drawn from classical Greek mythology and attest to values of person-centered education and self-improvement through literature and the arts, especially music.

Listen:
An Anacreontic Song (F. Hopkinson, C. 1790)

LEFT: Signing of the Declaration of Independence (Bettmann/CORBIS)
Jimi Hendrix
A View of the Bombardment of Fort McHenry (J. Bower, 1816/National Museum of American History)

The early 19th century once again saw fighting between Americans and the British. America had remained neutral during the Napoleonic Wars between Britain and France, but in the early 1800s, British disruption of American maritime interests once again drew America into battle.

By 1812, frustration and anger over British blockades restricting American trading ventures and the British practice of impressing American sailors into the British Royal Navy finally boiled over. Additionally, Americans felt that Britain’s support of American Indian tribes opposing American westward expansion was interfering with their destiny to move west. The conflict that resulted is known as the War of 1812, although it did not end until 1815. During this war, the United States failed in its attempt to invade Canada, while the British successfully controlled key American waterways and even burned the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. When the British set their sights on Baltimore in late 1814, Americans feared the end might be near. Yet after a 25-hour bombardment by the British Navy, Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor was still in American hands and the British retreated. In the early hours of September 14, an American lawyer named Francis Scott Key saw an American flag waving above the fort and was inspired to pen the words that would one day become our national anthem.

The flag Key spotted, made in 1813 by Baltimore flag-maker Mary Pickersgill, had 15 stripes and 15 stars. In the decades that followed, the descendants of Lieutenant Colonel George Armistead, who commanded Fort McHenry during the bombardment, held the flag as a family relic, occasionally displaying it during patriotic events and cutting pieces off for notable citizens.

american flag waving

Listen:
The Star-Spangled Banner (F.S. Key, Original Carr Version, 1814)

On September 7, 1814, Francis Scott Key, a Baltimore lawyer and amateur poet, boarded the HMS Tonnant to negotiate the release of an American doctor being held by the British, but the ship’s commander refused to let the Americans leave before the attack on Fort McHenry had ended. When Key saw the American flag rise about the fort that morning from an American ship, he knew the Americans had emerged victorious. Overcome with emotion, he started jotting down the beginnings of a poem on the back of a letter that was in his pocket, giving birth to the famous lines that would eventually become America’s national anthem. When his words were first published on September 20, 1814, they were set to the popular tune Anacreon in Heaven.

Listen:
The Star-Spangled Banner (Key/Hewitt, 1817)

Occurring only a month after the British burning of the nation’s capital, the victory at Baltimore sparked an emotional reversal from despair to pride that seems not only to have inspired Key, but to have propelled the rapid dissemination of his song in newspapers as well as sheet music editions. Other composers built upon the popularity of Key’s song, soon setting Key’s lyric to new music to make it more American. Although derided by recent authors who find its march-inspired melody as difficult to sing as Anacreon in Heaven, composer James Hewitt’s 1817 The Star-Spangled Banner enjoyed the success of multiple editions in the 1820s and ’30s.

LEFT: Francis Scott Key looking out at Ft. McHenry (Bettmann/CORBIS)
The Mexican War: The Battle of Buena Vista
The Mexican War: The Battle of Buena Vista (Bettmann/CORBIS)

The War of 1812 was at last resolved by peace negotiations, but the United States’ desire to expand her territory continued to cause conflicts. As Americans spread out across the continent, they clashed with American Indian populations and the foreign powers that still held sway in these regions.


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Mexican Army Frock Coat


Many of these conflicts resulted in expanding American states. The territory gained from the Mexican War, for instance, would ultimately divide into eight states. As the United States began to change its shape, so too did the American flag. The Star-Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry was made in a time when a new star and a new stripe were added to the flag for each new state, but America’s rapid growth soon made this style cumbersome. The Flag Act of 1818 established a new look for the flag: 13 red and white stripes would represent the 13 original colonies and a new star would be added to the blue field for each new state added to the Union.

The Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail (Bettmann/CORBIS)
Library of Congress
Broadside for recruiting volunteer fighters (National Museum of American History)
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1827 Map of the United States (CORBIS)
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President Abraham Lincoln with General George B. McClellan at his headquarters at Antietam, October 3, 1862. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

The late 19th century was dominated by tensions between the North and South, particularly over the issue of slavery. In 1861, eleven southern states seceded, forming the Confederate States of America.

The Union, led by President Abraham Lincoln, refused to accept the secession, which led to the Civil War.


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First CSA National Flag, 1861


The new Confederate national flag was known as the “Stars and Bars” and featured eight stars on a blue field, one for each Confederate state as of March 1861, and three stripes, two red and one white. The style was so similar to the Union flag that it caused deadly confusion during the first battles between the North and South, and a more distinctive Battle Flag was soon adopted. Fighting erupted throughout the country, leading to the bloodiest war in American history.


On the battlefields and at home, many soldiers and families on both sides of the conflict turned to music to express their emotions, fill their time, and soothe their troubles. New songs that captured the fever of the age gained widespread popularity, especially Julia Ward Howe’s 1862 work “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which, like “The Star-Spangled Banner,” put new words to another familiar tune. With a crisis of national identity unfolding before their eyes, The Star-Spangled Banner rose to prominence across the Union, ringing out from battle camps, churches, parades, and parlors as Americans clung to Key’s words. Meanwhile, the Southern-sympathizing Armistead family kept the flag that inspired this song hidden away for safekeeping.

Battle Hymn of the Republic
Battle Hymn of the Republic (Wikimedia Commons)
The Wounded Soldiers
Slave Family, 1862 (Library of Congress)
Maj. Anderson raising the flag on Fort Sumter
Maj. Anderson raising the flag on Fort Sumter (Bettmann/CORBIS)
american flag waving

Key’s song and its melody, increasingly ingrained into the young nation’s cultural memory through patriotic repetition, also came to be used for political parody and social critique. On the occasion of July 4, 1861, following the secession of Confederate States that sparked the U.S. Civil War, poet and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., wrote two new verses to the Banner melody. Upset by a country torn in half, Holmes professed his belief in the ultimate liberty and glory of the nation. The last of these two verses, critical of the “foe from within” and predicting the freeing of the slaves, was widely disseminated, often as a fifth verse appended to Key’s lyrics and even in government-affiliated publications.

Listen:
Two Verses For The Star-Spangled Banner (Holmes, Sr., 1861)

LEFT: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (Bettmann/CORBIS)
Jimi Hendrix
Abraham Lincoln reading the Emancipation Proclamation before his cabinet. (CORBIS)

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in the ten states still in rebellion and officially making slavery a war issue. The war eventually turned in the Union’s favor and, in April of 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered.


From Our Collection
Lincoln's Top Hat


President Lincoln was assassinated five days later, but the war was already won. During the next decade and a half, the United States struggled to reconcile the North and South, with the Star-Spangled Banner emerging as a uniting American symbol around the time of the centennial in 1876.

american flag waving

John Philip Sousa was the leader of the United States Marine Band, known as “The President’s Own,” for twelve years before resigning to create his own civilian concert band. This band toured extensively in the United States, Europe, and Great Britain, becoming one of the most admired American bands during the early 20th century. It was this band that, in 1898, made one of the earliest recordings of The Star-Spangled Banner.

Listen:
Sousa's Band recorded on April 7, 1898, courtesy Library of Congress

LEFT: John Philip Sousa and the U.S. Marine Band (CORBIS)
Future President Theodore Roosevelt with his Rough Riders on San Juan Hill.
Future President Theodore Roosevelt with his Rough Riders on San Juan Hill. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

Slowly the nation turned outwards towards an increasingly colonized world, and by the end of the century, America joined the fray. In 1898, spurred by a sensationalized press and a new tide of patriotism, the United States went to war again, this time with Spain.


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USS Maine Nameplate and Bugle


During this brief campaign, the United States aimed to free Cuba from Spanish domination and simultaneously annexed Puerto Rico and several islands in the Pacific, including Hawaii. By the 1890s, the American military had adopted The Star-Spangled Banner as its primary ceremonial song, requiring that the piece be played at the raising and lowering of the colors; with the Spanish-American War, the song was front and center on the national stage.

By 1900, George Armistead’s grandson, Eben Appleton, had inherited the flag but found caring for and displaying it too demanding. In 1907, Appleton agreed to loan the flag to the Smithsonian Institution, making it a permanent gift in 1912. Time and souvenir seekers had removed 8 feet and a star from the flag and left it too fragile to hang without support. In 1914, Anna Fowler, a professional flag restorer, mounted the Star-Spangled Banner onto a linen backing and it was hung in the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries building, where it would remain for the next 50 years.

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Private T. P. Loughlin of the 69th Infantry saying farewell to his family. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

The early 20th century saw a series of firsts, from the first public display of this national icon to the first airplane flight. However, it was also dominated by war on a global scale. In 1917, the United States joined the Allied effort in World War I, a conflict that had been raging across Europe since 1914.


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Doughboy Uniform


Within eighteen months, the addition of American soldiers tipped the scales and Germany agreed to an armistice in 1918. The United States emerged from the war as a new global superpower, which brought new changes at home. Women’s rights became an important social issue during this period as more and more women worked outside of the home during World War I. In 1920, women won the right to vote via a Constitutional amendment.

Battle Hymn of the Republic
On the bleak sands of Kitty Hawk, the Wrights make their historic first heavier-than-air flight. (CORBIS)
Beaumont, France on September 12, 1918
American Artillery and Machine Guns (George Matthews Harding/National Museum of American History)
Maj. Anderson raising the flag on Fort Sumter
Several women wear sashes reading "Votes for Women" in a suffrage parade along a city street. USA. (CORBIS)
american flag waving

In 1915, the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal. Margaret Woodrow Wilson, the eldest daughter of then-president Woodrow Wilson, recorded this rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner as a souvenir for attendees of the world’s fair. Each record was sold for a dollar, 25 cents of which was given to the Red Cross to support its efforts in Europe during World War I, although the United States had not yet joined the conflict. Following the death of her mother Ellen Axson Wilson in 1914, Margaret Wilson served as the First Lady of the United States until President Wilson remarried in 1915. She studied voice and piano at the Peabody Institute of Music.

Listen:
The Star Spangled Banner (performed by Margaret Woodrow Wilson, 1915)

Increasingly throughout this period, Americans and their leaders saw a need for strong national symbols to unite them at home and to be the face of the country abroad. The Star-Spangled Banner was used by the Navy as early as 1889 and was promoted by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, but it was not until a Congressional Resolution in 1931 that it became the official National Anthem of the United States.

Listen:
The Star-Spangled Banner (Service Version, 1918)

LEFT: Woodrow Wilson (Oscar White/CORBIS)
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Huge columns of smoke go up from the USS West Virginia and the USS Tennessee, crippled in their berths at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by a Japanese surprise attack. (CORBIS)

Although Americans enjoyed great prosperity during the so-called “Roaring-Twenties,” the Great Depression and the severe drought that struck simultaneously quickly created a country-wide economic disaster. Despite the efforts of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, Americans would not begin to experience real recovery until a new war broke out in 1939: World War II.


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Uncle Sam "I Want You!" Poster


The United States joined Allied efforts following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and Americans went to work in all sectors to support the war effort. They displayed their patriotism in a number of ways, including wearing decorative pins and displaying flags in their windows to represent sons and daughters in the armed forces.

Battle Hymn of the Republic
The capitol in the background overlooks this dugout at Camp Marks, Washington D.C. (Bettmann/CORBIS)
Beaumont, France on September 12, 1918
Propaganda poster (Bernard Perlin/National Museum of American History)
Maj. Anderson raising the flag on Fort Sumter
Women of the roaring 20's (ClassicStock/CORBIS)
Kate Smith

Kate Smith, also known as “The First Lady of Radio,” was an American singer and radio personality in the early and mid-20th century. She is best known for her rendition of God Bless America and other hits like River, Stay 'Way From My Door and Now Is the Hour. In 1939, Smith released this rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner together with God Bless America, which became Smith’s best-known song. Partly due to Smith’s own popularity, God Bless America, written by Irving Berlin in 1918, was widely considered a desirable alternative to The Star-Spangled Banner, and many felt it would have made a better national anthem. Towards the end of her career, she would perform God Bless America at Philadelphia Flyers hockey games in lieu of the traditional Star-Spangled Banner.

Listen:
The Star Spangled Banner (performed by Kate Smith, 1939)

In 1945, the Division of Cultural Cooperation of the U.S. State Department, in conjunction with the Music Educators National Conference, called for submissions for the translation of the song into Spanish and Portuguese, so it could be distributed throughout Latin America. What better way for the United States to share its values and patriotism with its neighbors to the south—something highly desired at the time—than through its national anthem? Peruvian immigrant and composer Clotilde Arias took on the task, translating the lyrics so they could be sung. Arias had started her career writing jingles for advertising agencies and later gained recognition for her song “Huiracocha.” She sent in her work; it was accepted as the most accurate and the closest to the English words. Her version still stands as the only official translation of the National Anthem.

Listen:
El pendon estrellado (Performed by and courtesy of Coral Cantigas)

TOP LEFT: Kate Smith (Bettmann/CORBIS). BOTTOM LEFT: El pendon estrellado music sheet (National Museum of American History)

Due to concerns about a possible attack on Washington, D.C., many of the Smithsonian Institution’s national treasures, including the flag, were packed up and hidden away for safe keeping; after two years in storage, the flag was put on display once again in 1944. World War II finally ended in 1945, closing one of the most violent chapters in world history.

Jimi Hendrix
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, stands beside an American flag placed on the moon during Apollo 11 extravehicular activity. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

The end of World War II did not mean the end of hostilities. Relations between the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union, allies during the war, chilled quickly and led to decades of clashes over political influence, propaganda, espionage, and technological competitions known collectively as the Cold War. In 1950, this larger conflict manifested itself in the Korean War.


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Greensboro Lunch Counter


War broke out when North Korean forces backed by the Soviet Union invaded South Korea, which was backed by the United States and other members of the United Nations. Although this engagement was resolved in 1953, tensions continued. As part of the technological competition, America and the Soviet Union raced to the moon; the United States emerged triumphant in 1969 when Apollo 11 astronauts touched down and raised an American flag. The Vietnam War, which stretched from 1956 to 1975, was a highly divisive struggle that once again provided a battleground from which pro-capitalist forces fought to contain the spread of communism and Soviet influence. High casualty rates and an ever-expanding draft fueled anti-war sentiments at home and abroad, leading to protests across the United States and growing disunity among the American people. Both supporters and critics of the war used the flag to express their views about the morality and necessity of the war, sometimes with violent results.

Internally, additional sources of conflict began to sow upheaval in the United States soon after World War II ended. The Civil Rights Movement gained traction in the 1950s and 1960s as African Americans and other marginalized groups demanded equal rights. Civil rights activists carried the American flag to pressure the nation to live up to its ideals of freedom and equality, while white segregationists flew Confederate flags to oppose the intervention of the federal government in their communities and to defend “the Southern way of life.” Across the South and Southwest, Mexican families who entered the country via the Bracero program and other routes raised their voices as well, and ultimately had major impacts on everything from labor organization to food production.

american flag waving

October 7, 1968: In Detroit, Michigan, Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano performed a bluesy, folk-rock rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner to kick off Game 5 of the World Series. The young artist, who had overcome obstacles of poverty and blindness to achieve international fame as a Grammy Award-winning pop singer, intended his song to be “an anthem of gratitude” to the United States. He was also eager for the opportunity to express his patriotism in style, to “put some soul” into the old standard. While his rendition drew complaints from baseball fans who were expecting to hear the anthem sung in the traditional way, many others were moved by Feliciano’s version, and the recording became a popular hit, reaching No. 50 on the Billboard singles chart.

Listen:
Performed by Jose Feliciano on October 7, 1968, at Game 5 of the World Series

August 18, 1969: On this final morning of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix woke up the crowd with an electrified rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. Embraced by fans as "mind-blowing," Hendrix's version, with its distorted explosions of sound, was interpreted by some critics as an antiwar parody. When later asked why he chose to include the national anthem in his set, Hendrix replied, "Because we're all American." He went on to defend his remake of the song as expressing the spirit of the times: “We don't play it to take away all the greatness that America's supposed to have. We play it the way the air is in America today. The air is slightly static, isn't it?”

Listen:
Performed by Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock, 1969)

LEFT: Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock (Barry Z Levine/Getty Images)

Nations in the Middle East also played an increasingly central role in the struggle, with both U.S. and Soviet forces supporting different factions and movements. Towards the end of the century, the Middle East continued to be a place of violence and conflict, even as the Soviet Union fell apart and the Cold War ended. In 1991, an American-led coalition of more than thirty countries stepped in to oppose Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait; less than 5 days later Iraqi forces withdrew. The half-million troops deployed in the fighting returned home to flag-waving crowds and an outpouring of goodwill.

american flag waving

Although The Star-Spangled Banner was sung at the start of professional baseball games as early as 1862, the tradition of singing the national anthem at the start of every Major League Baseball game began during World War II. On May 22, 1985, Willie Nininger made his fourth appearance singing the national anthem before a Mets game at Shea Stadium in New York.

Track title: "Star Spangled Banner" by Willie Nininger from the recording entitled Fast Folk Musical Magazine (Vol. 2, No. 6), FFFF206, courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. (p) (c) 1985. Used by permission.

Listen:

LEFT: Major League Baseball's 2013 All-Star Game (Rich Graessle/Icon SMI)

It was during this period that the National Museum of American History, then called the Museum of History and Technology, was founded to house the Star-Spangled Banner and other national treasures. Once again hung vertically, the flag from Fort McHenry hung against a backdrop that filled in the flag’s own missing gaps to create the image of a whole flag once more. It was also in 1953 that Francis Scott Key’s handwritten manuscript of “The Star-Spangled Banner” came into the collection of the Maryland Historical Society.

Jimi Hendrix
Firefighters raise a U.S. flag at the site of the World Trade Center after two hijacked commercial airliners were flown into the buildings September 11, 2001 in New York. (The Record (Bergen Co. NJ)/Getty Images)

More than a decade into the 21st century, America continues to address conflicts at home and abroad; rather than being put to rest, many of the issues we have grappled with for centuries continue to present challenges. Domestically, Americans continue to fight modern slavery and human trafficking, and the issue of immigration reform has been a subject of much discussion and political debate. Internationally, the United States’ engagement in the Middle East has only expanded since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 shocked the world. These attacks affected Americans both young and old, and the flag has once again become a symbol around which Americans have rallied at memorials and anniversary commemorations.


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Military Robot


The United States’ response to the attacks has led to two controversial and long-term wars in the Middle East, beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and followed by the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The focus on inhibiting and ultimately eliminating the networks of al Qaeda and other extremist groups has seen both great success and great frustration.

As America continues to fight for democracy and freedom, the National Museum of American History continues to preserve the symbol of this effort, the Star-Spangled Banner. The Star-Spangled Banner Preservation Project began in 1998 when the flag was taken down and moved into an on-site lab where conservators could care for it in full view of visitors. The 1914 linen backing was removed, the entire flag was cleaned, and a new, light-weight backing was added to provide more support; rather than restoring the flag to its original appearance, the Star-Spangled Banner is now shown holes and all. Conservators, curators, engineers, architects, and exhibit designers were all involved in the creation of a new flag chamber and display. The flag is housed in a low-light and low-oxygen chamber at a slight angle to minimize stress on the fabric while maintaining a good viewing position. Today, the flag is on view 364 days a year; donate now to help us keep it that way.

In June 2014, Francis Scott Key’s hand-written lyrics and the American flag that inspired them will be together for the first time in history. At the National Museum of American History, the two will be displayed side-by-side from June 14 to July 6, 2014.

Aloe Blacc joins over a dozen modern musical artists to perform special versions of "The Star-Spangled Banner" for the museum. (Aloe Blacc by Drew Heuhart, Neil Davis, Facility Engineer.)

For two hundred years, Americans of all ages and backgrounds have sung and played the Star-Spangled Banner. Many of their renditions have left indelible marks on the collective memory of this nation, as the voices and styles of artists from Jose Feliciano to Beyoncé, from Jimi Hendrix to Whitney Houston have given new meaning and richness to the tune. Many more contemporary artists from across musical genres have shared their version of the Star-Spangled Banner for this celebration. These unique voices, representing a wide array of distinct styles and American stories, show us all an America that is both diverse in its history and still united under the flag and the anthem it inspired. Through their renditions a broad spectrum of American music comes together to celebrate our national anthem.

Visit our YouTube Playlist Friends of the Museum perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” to watch and hear these artists.

To check out more of our online video content on the Star-Spangled Banner, visit our YouTube Playlist Raise it Up! Anthem of America

The Banner Yet Waves: 200 Years of Star-Spangled History was created in collaboration with the Star Spangled Music Foundation, Smithsonian Folkways, and Wool & Tusk.

Special thanks to all of the artists who have contributed to this project: Jonathan Batiste, Aloe Blacc, Sam Bush, Coral Cantigas, Renee Fleming, Warren Haynes, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, Angie Johnson, Valerie June, Della Mae, Scott Miller with Patty Griffin, Orba Squara, Phish, Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins, Steep Canyon Rangers, Train, and Josh Turner.

Recording Credits

The Anacreontic Song (Tomlinson, Stafford Smith, 1775-76):
Soloist: Jacob Wright. American Music Institute Men’s Chorus, University of Michigan. Directed by Jerry Blackstone and Mark Clague, Ph.D. Harpsichord: Scott VanOrnum.

"An Anacreontic Song" (F. Hopkinson, C. 1790):
Soloist: Scott Piper. Harpsichord: Michael Carpenter. Producer: Mark Clague, Ph.D., University of Michigan

"The Star-Spangled Banner" (F.S. Key, Original Carr Version, 1814):
Soloist: Justin Berkowitz. American Music Institute Choir, University of Michigan. Directed by Jerry Blackstone and Mark Clague, Ph.D. Scott VanOrnum, fortepiano

"The Star-Spangled Banner" (Key/Hewitt, 1817):
American Music Institute Men’s Chorus, University of Michigan. Directed by Jerry Blackstone and Mark Clague, Ph.D. Scott VanOrnum, fortepiano

"The Star-Spangled Banner" (Holmes, Sr., 1861):
American Music Institute Choir, University of Michigan. Directed by Jerry Blackstone and Mark Clague, Ph.D. Scott VanOrnum, piano

"The Star-Spangled Banner" (Service Version, 1918):
American Music Institute Choir, University of Michigan. Directed by Jerry Blackstone and Mark Clague, Ph.D. Scott VanOrnum, piano.

"Star Spangled Banner" (Willie Nininger)
From the recording entitled Fast Folk Musical Magazine (Vol. 2, No. 6), FFFF206, courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. (p) (c) 1985. Used by permission.