George Washington

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

96_005_3DS1Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library staff and volunteers are currently working to digitize our entire collection of historic photographs. This part of the collection includes over 1,000 images from the 1800s and 1900s, many showing men and women in their Masonic and fraternal regalia.

You can browse and search the images that have been digitized by visiting our website. Click on “Collections” and then click on “Online Collections” and “Click here to start a search of our online collection.” You will be taken to a new window where you can search for all of the photos by typing “photo,” or you can search for specific subjects, photographers, places or any other term. To date, we have almost 300 photos scanned and available for viewing, with more added each month.

The photograph above is just one example of the images now available online. It shows members of Boston Commandery, Knights Templar, during a visit to Mount Vernon in Virginia. When we first scanned the photo, we did not have any information about the date the photo was taken. But, with a little research, we learned that it depicts the group of Knights who visited George Washington’s home during their attendance at the 1889 Conclave (or triennial meeting) in Washington, D.C. Indeed, a Boston newspaper account of the trip notes that on October 10, 1889, the group traveled to Mount Vernon on a boat and “from the wharf they marched to the tomb where resides all that is mortal of that most eminent Mason, Brother George Washington.” The newspaper goes on to explain that “the knights then went to the portico of the famous old mansion and were photographed…” According to their own history, “on arrival [the Knights] formed a square about the tomb of Washington, when an impressive service was held…The old mansion was visited, and pleasant hours were spent on this historic estate.”

Pilgrimages to Mount Vernon seem to have been popular during the late 1800s. Another image in the Museum’s collection, seen below and taken in 1859, shows St. John’s Commandery No. 1, from Providence, Rhode Island, during their visit to Washington’s tomb at Mount Vernon. According to a published account of the visit, the men marched off the boat “to the sounds of mournful music” and first visited Washington’s tomb, as seen in the photograph. They next visited the house itself, which had fallen into disrepair. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association had purchased the estate the year before St. John’s Commandery’s visit, in 1858, and would open it to the public in 1860, after beginning a careful refurbishment.93_019DI1

Please tell your friends and family about our photo collection – and keep checking back to see new images as we add them. We hope not only to be able to share our wonderful collection with visitors near and far, but also to encourage scholars and researchers to use these images in order to better understand the history of Freemasonry and fraternalism in America.

References:

Boston Daily Globe, October 7 and 11, 1889.

Historical Sketch of St. John’s Commandery No. 1 of Knights Templars. Providence: Rhode Island Printing Company, 1875.

History of Saint Johns Commandery Number One, Providence, 1902.

Memoir of the Pilgrimage to Virginia of the Knights Templars of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, May 1859. Boston: A. Williams and Company, 1859.

A Sketch of Boston Commandery of Knights Templars. Boston: Triennial Committee, 1895.

Boston Commandery at Mount Vernon, 1889, Virginia. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, Gift of Harvey B. Leggee Collection of Shrine and Fraternal Material, 96.005.3.

St. John’s Commandery No. 1 at Mount Vernon, 1859, Virginia. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, Special Acquisitions Fund, 93.019.


Rembrandt Peale’s Visit with George Washington

75_6T1In 1795, at just seventeen years old, Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860) enjoyed the career-making opportunity to sketch George Washington (1732–1799) from life.  Rembrandt’s father, the established painter Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), arranged the sitting with the president at his son's request.  The elder Peale knew the president personally, having made several portraits of him, the first painted in the 1770s.  Rembrandt was embarking upon his own career as an artist and hoped that a portrait of Washington would be an attention-getting feather in his cap. 

At the sitting, father and son worked on portraits of Washington.  Rembrandt drew on the experience and the sketches he made at the time to produce portraits of the American hero for decades.  When selling these works in the 1840s and 1850s, Rembrandt Peale capitalized on his status as one of the few still living artists to have painted Washington from life. The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library holds two of Rembrandt Peale’s portraits of Washington in its collection, one of Washington in military uniform (upper left)  and another of him in formal clothes (lower right).

Signature side of Peale letterThe first of these works descended in a Philadelphia family.  When the donor made the gift to the museum, he included a wonderful letter from Peale to the original buyer, Henry Paul Beck (1802-1874).  In this document Peale thanks the purchaser, compliments his taste, offers advice on framing and tactfully asks him to correct a payment error. He also suggests a reason why Beck bought the painting—Beck's father was Washington’s friend—a piece of information about the sale that would be difficult for us to know without this correspondence.

In both its creation and its sale, this painting’s story speaks to the power of firsthand experiences.  If 2000_016T1you would like to have your own firsthand experience of the painting, stop by Curators’ Choice:  Favorites from the Collection at the museum. 


References:

David Meschutt, “Life Portraits of George Washington,” in Barbara J. Mitnick, ed., George Washington, American Symbol (New York:  Hudson Hills Press), 1999, pp. 33-34, 37.

Credits:

George Washington, ca. 1847, Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Gift of John Bartholomew Webster, 75.6. 

Letter,1847, Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Gift of John Bartholomew Webster, A75/007/1.  

George Washington, ca. 1859, Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Gift of the Forrest D. McKerley Foundation, 2000.016.  Photograph by David Bohl


Betsy Ross: The Life Behind the Legend, Nov. 5 at the Museum

BetsyRoss_LoC_croppedCould Betsy Ross have changed history with a snip of a pair of scissors in the year 1776? Did that snip convince George Washington, the nation’s future first president, that five-pointed stars suited better than six? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Join us for the lecture, “Betsy Ross: The Life Behind the Legend,” on Saturday, November 5 at 2 pm to delve into the full life story this enduring American legend. Historian Marla R. Miller shares Ross as she truly was, piecing together the fascinating life of this beloved figure. Ross is thought to be important to our history above all for her role as a skilled needlewoman. She was one of Philadelphia's most important flag makers from the Revolution through the War of 1812. Little known, however, is that she was fiercely on the side of the colonial resistance, reveled in its triumphs, and suffered consequences as a result.

Miller’s recent publication, Betsy Ross and the Making of America, will be available for purchase and signing following the talk.

The lecture is free. It is made possible by Ruby W. Linn, and is the concluding lecture in a series celebrating the National Heritage Museum’s treasured 15-star flag. Made between 1794 and 1818, the flag will be available for viewing on the day of the lecture in the Museum’s Farr Conference Room.

Headshot in snowMarla R. Miller is an historian of early American women and work, and has made a career uncovering the lives of women who left little in the way of a documentary record. She is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and directs the Public History program there. She has won the Organization of American Historians’ Lerner-Scott Prize for the best dissertation in Women’s History and the 1998 Walter Muir Whitehill Prize in Colonial History.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861‑6559 or visit our web site.

Photo credits:

Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag, c. 1908. Library of Congress.

Marla Miller. Courtesy of Marla Miller.


There Is Rest in Heaven

There is rest in heaven print, 86_62_29bDS1 When George Washington died on December 14, 1799, grief at the loss of the first president united many Americans. Although Washington’s funeral was held at Mount Vernon, over the following months, cities and towns throughout the nation staged their own funeral processions and other memorial events. Soon after, works of art—prints, ceramics, and jewelry—told of the new nation’s sorrow at the death of its leader and hero. Although mourning art was popular in Europe and England in the late 1700s, George Washington’s passing precipitated a new market for the genre in the United States.

The National Heritage Museum is fortunate to hold a number of pieces that mark the passing of America’s first president. Many came to us as part of the Dr. William L. and Mary B. Guyton Collection of more than 600 prints and ephemera related to Washington. This collection demonstrates the way that the memory of George Washington has developed over the past 200 years.

The print seen here, on view in our current exhibition, “Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection,” and through our online catalog, was made around 1801, not long after Washington’s death. It is one of the earliest pieces in the Guyton collection. Typical of mourning art of the time, it features sentimental images of a man and a woman, shedding their tears before a monument that features Washington’s portrait and the inscription, “There Is Rest in Heaven.” In this imaginary garden setting, complete with a weeping willow and other symbolic flowers and trees, the allegorical figure of Hope, symbolized by the anchor at her feet, stands behind the mourners.

There is rest in Heaven plate, 86_62_29cDP1 The Museum holds not only two copies of this diminutive print—the image is less than 3½” in diameter—but also the copper plate they were made from. Engraved by Thomas Clarke in Boston, this print is a smaller version of one that is held by a number of institutions, including Old Sturbridge Village, the Fraunces Tavern Museum, and the Boston Athenaeum. The only other copy of the smaller version that I have located so far is at the American Antiquarian Society, which holds both. The larger version is more obvious about its role as a George Washington memorial piece. It includes an inscription below the image: “SACRED to the MEMORY of the ILLUSTRIOUS G. WASHINGTON.” I found it curious that the two versions are mirror images, except for the bust of George Washington on the obelisk, which faces to the right in both prints. There are other, more subtle differences in the figures, tree, and monument as well. Finally, the larger print sports a more ornate decorative border around the central image.

I am intrigued by the existence of two versions of the print, especially since ours is smaller and slightly simpler than the more common one. Did Thomas Clarke think there was enough of a market for both? Which came first? Was ours drawn from the larger, more complex print, or was it a study done beforehand? Did the inscription exalting George Washington help the larger version sell better?

If you have any information about this engraver or these prints, please leave a comment or get in touch with us.

There Is Rest in Heaven, print (top) and plate (bottom), 1801. Thomas Clarke (active 1797-1801), Boston, Massachusetts. National Heritage Museum Collection, Dr. William L. and Mary B. Guyton Collection, 86.62.29a-c. Photographs by David Bohl.

 


"The Initiated Eye" Extended Until February 26, 2011

02 Have you visited the Museum’s exhibition, "The Initiated Eye: Secrets, Symbols, Freemasonry, and the Architecture of Washington, D.C."? Worried that you’ll miss it? Well, fear not – we are extending it for one more month. "The Initiated Eye" will now be open until Saturday, February 26, 2011. We hope you will make plans to see it before it disappears!

"The Initiated Eye" presents 21 paintings by artist Peter Waddell, based on the architecture of Washington, D.C., and the role that our founding fathers and prominent citizens (many of whom were Freemasons) played in establishing the city. The depictions of historical events, activities, and ceremonies carefully explain and demystify Freemasonry for the public. In addition to the paintings, approximately 40 objects from the National Heritage Museum collection enrich the exhibition.  The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We are located at 33 Marrett Road (Route 2A) in Lexington, Massachusetts. Please visit our website for more information.

This painting, The Age of Reason Made Manifest, shows the working plan for the city of Washington, D.C., laid out on a desk at Monticello. The creative dialogue between Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), George Washington (1732-1799), and Pierre L’Enfant (1754-1825) resulted in a classically-inspired vision and plan for Washington, D.C. Although the vast majority of the design was realized, a few key landmarks seen here were not built. The Supreme Court building was to have taken the form of a Roman temple at the site of Judiciary Square; the Washington Monument would have been an equestrian statue of George Washington; a rostral column would lie south of it; and a cascade flowing from a pyramid would grace the base of Capitol Hill. 

The paintings in the exhibition were commissioned by, and are the property of, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C., with all rights reserved. This exhibition is supported by the Scottish Rite Masons of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A.

The Age of Reason Made Manifest, 2005, Peter Waddell, Washington, D.C., Courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C.  Photograph by Carol Highsmith.


Don't Miss "The Initiated Eye"! Closing January 9, 2011

2007_057_1a-cDI1 Doric column The Museum’s exhibition, "The Initiated Eye: Secrets, Symbols, Freemasonry, and the Architecture of Washington, D.C.," will be coming to a close on January 9, 2011.  We hope you will make plans now to fit in a visit before it is gone.

"The Initiated Eye" presents 21 paintings by artist Peter Waddell, based on the architecture of Washington, D.C., and the role that our founding fathers and prominent citizens--many of whom were Freemasons--played in establishing the city.  The depictions of historical events, activities, and ceremonies carefully explain and demystify Freemasonry for the public.

Approximately 40 objects from the National Heritage Museum collection enrich the exhibition.  One of these objects is a recently acquired Doric column pedestal that was previously used in a lodge in Keene, New Hampshire.  Part of a set of three (the other two show the Ionic and Corinthian styles), the pedestal was probably made in Boston around 1890.

In the exhibition, the pedestal is shown in connection with the painting, Centerpiece of the New Republic (seen at right), which depicts the crypt underneath the U.S. Capitol.  The crypt is located at the dividing point of Washington, D.C.’s quadrants and was built to hold the body of George Washington (1732-1799).  The founding fathers also envisioned an even greater role for the structure.  Inset in the middle of the crypt floor is a brass compass rose, the location for the New Republic’s prime meridian, to replace the one in Greenwich, England.  Planners envisioned that all distances would be measured from this point and that all boundaries for future states would be surveyed from it.  Delicate elliptical vaults transfer the weight of the Capitol’s rotunda onto unfluted Doric columns.07

The paintings in the exhibition were commissioned by, and are the property of, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C., with all rights reserved.  This exhibition is supported by the Scottish Rite Masons of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A.

Doric column pedestal, ca. 1890, American, National Heritage Museum collection, Museum purchase, 2007.057.1a-c. 

Centerpiece of the New Republic, 2005, Peter Waddell, Washington, D.C., Courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C.


Sharing Comments on The Initiated Eye

SR from IE with JB columns Here at the National Heritage Museum, we always include a way for visitors to leave their comments after viewing our exhibitions.  Since our show, The Initiated Eye: Secrets, Symbols, Freemasonry and the Architecture of Washington, D.C., opened almost six months ago, we have received a variety of feedback in the comment book at the end of the exhibit. 

The book offers visitors a chance to make any kind of comment they wish.  Sometimes they include their names and where they are from.  While most list an American town or state, we were excited to see some foreign visitors – including those from England, Scotland, Switzerland, and even India!

We are interested in all kinds of comments, whether positive or negative.  For example, one visitor helped us catch a typographical error by pointing out that the birth year for the artist was incorrect on one of the painting labels – it read “b. 1855” instead of “b. 1955”!  We appreciate this attention to detail and have fixed the errant label.

Still other visitors shared their favorite object in the show.  Nora Jane wrote “I especially loved the statue of George [Washington].”  Anja and Ashley, who signed the same page in the book, both liked the 38-star flag (don’t miss an upcoming June blog about this fascinating artifact).  And, Mike H. noted that he liked “the parade at the Capitol photo.”

Some visitors leave their questions in the comment book.  Thirteen-year-old Christina from New Hampshire wrote “I noticed in the painting to the left [Building the Temple Within, shown here at top] that the 2 columns were in the order of JB but here it is BJ [a pair of actual Masonic columns from the collection, shown at right].”  Undoubtedly, Christina has not been the only one to notice this discrepancy.  In fact, the exhibition includes two paintings – by the same artist – that contradict the order of the columns.  In the painting, An Auspicious Day, which depicts George Washington (shown below at left), the stair posts are labeled like columns and read “BJ.”  So, why the discrepancy?89_47S1

In Freemasonry, the columns marked B and J represent Boaz and Jachin, the columns that were erected at the entrance to King Solomon’s Temple.  They are described in the Bible, in 2 Chronicles 3:15-17, “And he reared up the pillars before the temple…and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin, and the name of that on the left Boaz.”  From this description, the B column should stand on the left, while the J column should be on the right.  This description is used in Masonic ritual, which is based on the story of the building of Solomon’s Temple. 

So, why do the columns appear in the opposite position in the painting Building the Temple Within – and, indeed, in a number of printed and published sources?  It may be that the artist was following the way the names of the columns are listed in the Bible – with Jachin coming before Boaz.  Or, it may relate to the fact that text is reversed when converted from Hebrew, which is read right to left, to English, which is read left to right.  When we set up our columns in the exhibition, we chose to follow the biblical description – and the Masonic ritual.  Unfortunately, we do not know why the artist of the paintings placed the columns in one order in one painting and in the opposite order in another.

GW from IE with BJ columns We appreciate all of the feedback we receive on our exhibitions.  It’s gratifying to know that this exhibition provided “new insights into our US history,” as one visitor wrote.  Or, as another commented, “New view of how history was made!”  So, let us know how you think we’re doing – on site or online.  We can’t wait to hear from you.

The Initiated Eye will be on view through January 9, 2011.  The paintings in the exhibition are the work of Peter Waddell, and were commissioned by, and are the property of, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C., with all rights reserved.  This exhibition is supported by the Scottish Rite Masons of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A.

Top: Building the Temple Within, 2005, Peter Waddell (b. 1955), Washington, D.C.  Courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C. 

Middle: Masonic Columns, ca. 1840, Ohio.  Collection of the National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisitions Fund, 89.47a-d.  Photograph by John Miller.

Bottom: An Auspicious Day, 2005, Peter Waddell (b. 1955), Washington, D.C.  Courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C.


The Initiated Eye: Freemasonry and the Architecture of Washington, D.C.

Initiated Eye with Compass Have you read the new Dan Brown book, The Lost Symbol, yet?  Maybe you put it on your holiday wish list?  If your answer to either question is yes, then you probably know the basic outline of the story – it takes place in Washington, D.C., and makes reference to a number of prominent D.C. sites, many of which have a connection to Freemasonry. 

The National Heritage Museum’s new exhibition, "The Initiated Eye: Secrets, Symbols, Freemasonry, and the Architecture of Washington, D.C.," explores this same topic, bringing a little bit of Washington to Lexington, Massachusetts.

"The Initiated Eye" presents 21 oil paintings by Peter Waddell based on the architecture of Washington, D.C., and the role that our founding fathers and prominent citizens – many of whom were Freemasons – played in establishing the layout and design of the city.  The exhibition is supplemented with approximately forty objects from the National Heritage Museum’s collection.  The paintings and the objects explain and demystify Freemasonry for those who are unfamiliar, while also encouraging Masons and those who have read books like The Lost Symbol to look closer.

The painting shown here depicts a meeting between President George Washington (1732-1799) and surveyors Andrew Ellicott (1754-1820) and Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806).  Congress designated the location of the new capital on January 24, 1791.  Ellicott and Banneker surveyed the ten-mile-square tract of land and produced a base map of the area.  In the painting, a brazier warms the early spring day in the tent filled with surveying instruments and Masonic artifacts.  The terrestrial and celestial globes symbolize the universality of Freemasonry.92_021_1a-fS1 compass

Accompanying this painting in the exhibition is a surveyor’s compass made between 1849 and 1857 by Charles F. Helffricht (1816-1863) of Philadelphia.  All compasses measure horizontal angles with reference to magnetic north.  In addition, surveyor’s compasses have vertical sights to aim at distant objects.

"The Initiated Eye" opens December 19, 2009 and will be on view through January 9, 2011.  The paintings in the exhibition are the work of Peter Waddell, and were commissioned by, and are the property of, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C., with all rights reserved.  This exhibition is supported by the Scottish Rite Masons of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A.

Left: A Vision Unfolds, 2005, Peter Waddell (b. 1955), Washington, D.C.  Courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C.  Right: Surveyor’s Compass, 1849-1857, Charles F. Helffricht (1816-1863), Philadelphia, PA, National Heritage Museum, gift of Charles E. Daniels, 92.021.1a-f.  Photograph by David Bohl.


What do we collect?

89_76T1 Tracing Board Established in 1975 by Scottish Rite Freemasons of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States, the National Heritage Museum tells America’s story. For over thirty years, the museum has collected, by gift and by purchase, objects that help tell that story. Today, the collection numbers over 16,000 objects. 

The collection’s primary strength is its American Masonic and fraternal items.  As the largest group of objects of its kind in the United States, the Museum’s holdings include over 400 fraternal aprons, over 2,500 fraternal badges and pieces of jewelry, and more than 1,000 items of fraternal regalia, as well as household and lodge furnishings, glass, ceramics and works of art, all decorated with Masonic and fraternal symbols.  The Museum manages an additional 12,000 objects and documents from the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts under a long-term loan agreement.  The Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives comprise 60,000 books, 1,600 serial titles and 2,000 cubic feet of archival materials related to American history and fraternalism.  Selected treasures from our collection can be seen on our website.  The Library’s catalog of printed books is also accessible online.

The Museum also collects material related to American history.  These items offer different perspectives for the interpretation of important events, people, themes and issues in American history.  For example, the Willis R. Michael collection of American and European clocks comprises an encyclopedic diversity of over 140 time-keeping mechanisms.  Many of these clocks are currently featured in the National Heritage Museum exhibition, "For All Time," on view through February 21, 2010.  The Dr. William L. and Mary B. Guyton Collection of more than 600 George Washington prints and related ephemera showcases the way that the memory of our first president has developed over the past 200 years.86_61_115DI1 Guyton GW print

The objects in the museum collection are highlighted in interpretive exhibitions, presented in educational programs and used as the focus of scholarly research.  All enrich our understanding of the past.  The National Heritage Museum actively seeks to add items to its collection that tell an engaging story, do not duplicate existing holdings and are in good condition.

If you have questions about the National Heritage Museum’s collection, or would like to make a gift to the collection or a financial donation to support future object purchases and conservation, we would like to hear from you. For more information, please contact Aimee E. Newell, Director of Collections, at (781) 457-4144 and anewell[at]monh.org.

Top: Masonic tracing board, ca. 1820, attributed to John Ritto Penniman (1782-1841), probably Boston, Massachusetts, National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisitions Fund, 89.76.  Photograph by David Bohl.  Bottom: G. Washington, 1856, A. Chappel, artist, G.R. Hall, engraver, New York City, National Heritage Museum, Dr. William L. and Mary B. Guyton Collection, 86.61.115.


A National Treasure

95_021T1 One of the National Heritage Museum’s treasures – and a perennial favorite with our visitors – is the large 15-star American flag that proudly hangs in our Farr Conference Center. 

Donated in 1995 by John E. Craver, the flag had been passed down in his family for generations.  Makers sewed this flag, which measures approximately 11 feet by 12 ¾ feet, to fly over a military fort (or garrison) or on a vessel, marking them as U.S. property.  Unfortunately, we do not know who made it or where it originally flew.

The flag is made of wool bunting, a lightweight, mildew-resistant, coarsely woven fabric.  The blue section, called a canton, is colored with indigo.  This dye, common during the late 1700s and early 1800s, provided a deep, permanent color that rarely faded.  The red stripes are dyed with an unknown colorant and the white stars are made out of linen.

In 1996 and 1997, conservators worked 500 hours to stabilize the flag and prepare it for display.  After it was gently cleaned and stabilized, a supportive backing was attached.  A slightly angled back board further supports the flag in its specially constructed case, and low lighting helps to preserve it for generations to come.

The 15-star flag was the official U.S. design from 1794, when President George Washington (1732-1799) signed the Second Flag Act, until 1818, when legislators adopted the 20-star flag, adding one star for each state that joined the union since 1794.  The 1794 Second Flag Act mandated 15 stars and 15 stripes – one for each state then in the union – but did not specify design details, such as the arrangement of the stars.  You may notice that the Museum’s flag has only 14 stripes.  One was removed before we received it, probably due to deterioration, or possibly by a souvenir seeker.

The National Heritage Museum’s 15-star flag is one of only a handful still in existence known to have been made between 1794 and 1818.  The most famous 15-star flag is the Star-Spangled Banner, which flew over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  The survival of that flag during the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814 inspired Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) to write the words to what is now the American national anthem.  The Star-Spangled Banner was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1912.  That flag recently underwent a $7 million conservation project to better preserve it in the decades to come.

The National Heritage Museum holds over fifty flags in its collection.  Most are American flags of varying sizes with anywhere from 13 to 50 stars.  In addition, the Museum’s collection includes Masonic and fraternal flags, as well as a few state flags.

15-star American flag, 1794-1818.  Gift of John E. Craver, 95.021.  Photograph by David Bohl.