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The Star-Spangled Banner, 1813—Artifact

An artifact is an object that people made long ago. We can learn about the way people lived in the past and what they believed by studying artifacts. The American flag below is a very special artifact. It has become an important symbol of our nation.

Primary Source

This is an image of a very old flag. The flag has 15 gold stars on a blue background and 15 red and white stripes.

Members of the public look at the American flag, the “Star-Spangled Banner,” on Thursday, July 3, 1997, at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Source: AP Photo/Dennis Cook.


The Star-Spangled Banner is an artifact. It is a flag that a woman named Mary Young Pickersgill made in 1813. She made it with 15 stripes and 15 stars. She included one stripe and one star for each of the 15 states that made up the United States in 1813. U.S. soldiers raised this flag to show that they had won an important battle in 1814. A man named Francis Scott Key saw the flag after the battle. He wrote a poem about the flag and the battle. The poem became a song called “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That song is now our national anthem.

For many years, the flag was hung on the central wall at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, as shown in the photo above. Later, the Star-Spangled Banner became too fragile to hang on the wall any more. In 1998, it was taken to a special part of the museum for restoration. Today visitors can watch the museum staff as they work to preserve this important symbol of the United States.

Web Resource

Smithsonian National Museum of American History
You can find out more information about the Star-Spangled Banner and other important national symbols on the National Museum of American History Web site.