This stamp commemorates 200th anniversary of Star-Spangled Banner. The stamp’s image is from a photo of flag that flies over Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. It was taken during fireworks display at annual Defenders’ Day celebration.
During the War of 1812, Mary Pickersgill was commissioned to sew a flag “so large that the British will have no difficulty seeing it from a distance.” The flag was to fly over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, which the British hoped to capture.
Pickersgill was asked to make “one American ensign, 30x42 feet, first quality bunting.” A smaller flag of lighter materials was also ordered for use during bad weather. Over 400 yards of wool bunting was needed to construct the larger flag, which weighed about 50 pounds. Because of its size, the work was done on the floor of a nearby brewery after the business had closed for the day.
The British began bombarding Fort McHenry on September 13, 1814. Francis Scott Key witnessed the 25-hour assault from a ship in Chesapeake Bay. Because it was raining heavily, Key likely saw the smaller flag at “twilight’s last gleaming.” But as morning neared, the oversized flag was defiantly hoisted above Fort McHenry. The sight inspired Key to write lyrics about the “star-spangled banner.”
If not for fate, the Battle of Fort McHenry would have had a more explosive ending. Only the fort’s commander knew that its gunpowder magazine, over which some 2,000 shells fell, was not bombproof. A direct hit would have destroyed the fort instantly.
Gary Clark was the photographer for the stamp’s image. He said it was difficult to get the fireworks and the flag at the same time because it was windy the night he took the photo at the Defenders’ Day celebration.