Dec
17

Today in Smithsonian History: December 17, 1912

The Star Spangled Banner hanging from the exterior of the Smithsonian Institution Building in 1914, shortly after it was aquired for the National Museum.

The Star Spangled Banner hanging from the exterior of the Smithsonian Institution Building in 1914, shortly after it was aquired for the National Museum.

December 17, 1912 The Star Spangled Banner is accessioned into the permanent collection of the U.S. National Museum. The flag was first loaned to the Museum on July 9, 1907, by Eben Appleton, grandson of Major George Armistead, the defender of Fort McHenry, where the flag flew during the War of 1812.  In 1912, Appleton decides to make the flag a permanent gift to the Museum.

This image shows the Star-Spangled Banner as it was originally hung on the exterior of the Smithsonian Institution Building shortly after it was acquired for the National Museum. The flag was made during the summer of 1813 as a simple garrison flag, but after the British attacked Baltimore in 1814, it gained recognition as the “Star Spangled Banner”. The flag became a valued keepsake of Major George Armistead, the commander of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, and was retained by his descendants.Eventually the family came to believe that the Star Spangled Banner belonged in a museum as an artifact of national heritage. Armistead’s grandson, Eben Appleton, made inquires and corresponded with Smithsonian Secretary Charles D. Walcott.

In 1907 Appleton loaned the flag to the Smithsonian Institution and later in 1912 he converted the loan to a gift. The flag was restored by the Smithsonian Institution in 1914.

Packed in the wooden crate that Commodore George Preble had made for it in 1876, the flag was shipped from New York by Adams Express on July 5, 1907, and arrived at the Smithsonian the next day. Secretary Walcott was out of town, but Assistant Secretary Richard Rathbun had it hung on the exterior wall of the Castle and photographed. The flag was then placed in a case in the Arts and Industries Building’s Hall of History, next to cases holding military artifacts that had belonged to George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant.

The Star-Spangled Banner . (Photo by Dane Penland, 1983)

The Star-Spangled Banner. (Photo by Dane Penland, 1983)

Learn more about the history of this fabled flag >>

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives


Posted: 17 December 2015
About the Author:

The Torch relies on contributions from the entire Smithsonian community.