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Introduction During the night of September 13, 1814, the British fleet bombarded Fort McHenry in the harbor at Baltimore, Maryland. Francis Scott Key, a 34-year-old lawyer-poet, watched the attack from the deck of a British prisoner-exchange ship. He had gone to seek the release of a friend, but they were refused permission to go ashore until after the attack had been mad Introduction During the night of September 13, 1814, the British fleet bombarded Fort McHenry in the harbor at Baltimore, Maryland. Francis Scott Key, a 34-year-old lawyer-poet, watched the attack from the deck of a British prisoner-exchange ship. He had gone to seek the release of a friend, but they were refused permission to go ashore until after the attack had been made. As the battle ceased on the following morning, Key turned his telescope to the fort and saw that the American flag was still waving. The sight so inspired him that he pulled a letter from his pocket and began to write the poem, which eventually was adopted as the national anthem of the United States—“The Star-Spangled Banner.” Key was returned to Baltimore and later that day took a room at a Baltimore tavern where he completed the poem. Years later, Key told a hometown audience in Frederick, Maryland: “I saw the flag of my country waving over a city—the strength and pride of my native State—a city devoted to plunder and desolation by its assailants. I witnessed the preparation for its assaults. I saw the array of its enemies as they advanced to the attack. I heard the sound of battle; the noise of the conflict fell upon my listening ear, and told me that ‘the brave and the free’ had met the invaders.” The Joint Committee on Printing is pleased to present the latest edition of Our Flag. This Congressional publication briefly describes the history of the flag, and sets forth the practices and observances appropriate to its display. The Committee hopes that this document will be both useful and informative to its audience. The History of the Stars and Stripes The Stars and Stripes originated as a result of a resolution adopted by the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress at Philadelphia on June 14, 1777. The resolution read: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.” The resolution gave no instruction as to how many points the stars should have, nor how the stars should be arranged on the blue union. Consequently, some flags had stars scattered on the blue field without any specific design, some arranged the stars in rows, and some in a circle. The first Navy Stars and Stripes had the stars arranged in staggered formation in alternate rows of threes and twos on a blue field. Other Stars and Stripes flags had stars arranged in alternate rows of four, five and four. Some stars had six points while others had eight. Strong evidence indicates that Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was responsible for the stars in the U.S. flag. At the time that the flag resolution was adopted, Hopkinson was the Chairman of the Continental Navy Board’s Middle Department. Hopkinson also helped design other devices for the Government including the Great Seal of the United States. For his services, Hopkinson submitted a letter to the Continental Admiralty Board asking “whether a Quarter Cask of the public Wine will not be a proper & reasonable Reward for these Labours of Fancy and a suitable Encouragement to future Exertions of a like Nature.


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Introduction During the night of September 13, 1814, the British fleet bombarded Fort McHenry in the harbor at Baltimore, Maryland. Francis Scott Key, a 34-year-old lawyer-poet, watched the attack from the deck of a British prisoner-exchange ship. He had gone to seek the release of a friend, but they were refused permission to go ashore until after the attack had been mad Introduction During the night of September 13, 1814, the British fleet bombarded Fort McHenry in the harbor at Baltimore, Maryland. Francis Scott Key, a 34-year-old lawyer-poet, watched the attack from the deck of a British prisoner-exchange ship. He had gone to seek the release of a friend, but they were refused permission to go ashore until after the attack had been made. As the battle ceased on the following morning, Key turned his telescope to the fort and saw that the American flag was still waving. The sight so inspired him that he pulled a letter from his pocket and began to write the poem, which eventually was adopted as the national anthem of the United States—“The Star-Spangled Banner.” Key was returned to Baltimore and later that day took a room at a Baltimore tavern where he completed the poem. Years later, Key told a hometown audience in Frederick, Maryland: “I saw the flag of my country waving over a city—the strength and pride of my native State—a city devoted to plunder and desolation by its assailants. I witnessed the preparation for its assaults. I saw the array of its enemies as they advanced to the attack. I heard the sound of battle; the noise of the conflict fell upon my listening ear, and told me that ‘the brave and the free’ had met the invaders.” The Joint Committee on Printing is pleased to present the latest edition of Our Flag. This Congressional publication briefly describes the history of the flag, and sets forth the practices and observances appropriate to its display. The Committee hopes that this document will be both useful and informative to its audience. The History of the Stars and Stripes The Stars and Stripes originated as a result of a resolution adopted by the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress at Philadelphia on June 14, 1777. The resolution read: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.” The resolution gave no instruction as to how many points the stars should have, nor how the stars should be arranged on the blue union. Consequently, some flags had stars scattered on the blue field without any specific design, some arranged the stars in rows, and some in a circle. The first Navy Stars and Stripes had the stars arranged in staggered formation in alternate rows of threes and twos on a blue field. Other Stars and Stripes flags had stars arranged in alternate rows of four, five and four. Some stars had six points while others had eight. Strong evidence indicates that Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was responsible for the stars in the U.S. flag. At the time that the flag resolution was adopted, Hopkinson was the Chairman of the Continental Navy Board’s Middle Department. Hopkinson also helped design other devices for the Government including the Great Seal of the United States. For his services, Hopkinson submitted a letter to the Continental Admiralty Board asking “whether a Quarter Cask of the public Wine will not be a proper & reasonable Reward for these Labours of Fancy and a suitable Encouragement to future Exertions of a like Nature.

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