Marking the significant milestone of the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner, this stamp pays tribute to the enduring symbol of American pride. The image featured on the stamp captures the majestic flag that proudly waves above Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. The photograph was taken against the backdrop of a mesmerizing fireworks display during the annual Defenders’ Day celebration, immortalizing the spirit of resilience and patriotism embodied by the Star-Spangled Banner.
Amidst the War of 1812, a momentous task was bestowed upon Mary Pickersgill: to craft a flag of such grand proportions that the British forces would have no difficulty spotting it from a distance. This colossal flag was destined to unfurl above the mighty Fort McHenry in Baltimore, serving as a symbol of resilience and defiance against the British attempts to seize the fort.
Pickersgill was entrusted with the creation of an “American ensign,” measuring an impressive 30 by 42 feet, crafted with the finest quality bunting. Additionally, a smaller flag made of lighter materials was commissioned for use during inclement weather. The construction of the larger flag demanded over 400 yards of wool bunting and resulted in a weight of approximately 50 pounds. Due to its sheer size, the task was undertaken within the confines of a nearby brewery, utilizing the brewery’s floor as the workspace once business hours had concluded 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 simultaneously because it was windy the night he took the photo at the Defenders’ Day celebration.