Time Era

Historic time period: 1801–1861

Making the Star-Spangled Banner

On September 14, 1814, U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag to celebrate an important victory over British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of those "broad stripes and bright stars" inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that eventually became the United States national anthem. Key’s words gave new significance to a national symbol and started a tradition through which generations of Americans have invested the flag with their own meanings and memories.

Since 1907, the Smithsonian Institution has been responsible for preserving, displaying, and teaching about the Star-Spangled Banner. Close-up images of the Star-Spangled Banner and detailed historical background are available in the online exhibition The Star-Spangled Banner: The flag that inspired the national anthem.

The Flag Maker is a story about Caroline Pickersgill helping her mother, Mary Pickersgill, create the Star-Spangled Banner and her emotions as she sees that the flag has survived the Battle of Baltimore. You can learn more about the Star-Spangled Banner by reading The Flag Maker, exploring the online exhibition, and by trying out the activities below.

Read This Book

You can learn more about the Star-Spangled Banner in these books. Click on the book titles below for more information, or visit our complete bibliography.

The Flag Maker book cover

Featured Book

The Flag Maker

by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Images of The Flag Maker by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, illustrated by Claire A. Nivola. Text (c) 2004 by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Illustrations (c) 2004 by Claire A. Nivola. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


  • Spreading the News

    Spreading the News

    Use Technology

    Write and publish your own newspaper article to tell everyone the story of the Star-Spangled Banner.

    Download the PDF »
  • Hometown History

    Hometown History

    Take a Trip

    Find and explore the exciting historic places in your community. Image courtesy of Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

    Download the PDF »
  • Preservation and the Power of Light

    Preservation and the Power of Light

    Learn From Objects

    Learn about the effect sunlight has on pigment and find out what’s being done to save the Star-Spangled Banner.

    Download the PDF »
  • Design Your Own Family Flag

    Design Your Own Family Flag

    Play and Create

    Make a flag that represents the things that are important to or represent your family.

    Download the PDF »

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Smithsonian's History Explorer