Creating The Star-Spangled Banner

I've done a number of US flag kids' crafts over the years. (My favorite is this flag magazine mosaic.) Without exception, my projects have been of the modern version of our flag, with 50 stars and 13 stripes. This time, I made a project based on the 1814 version of the flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes. This is the flag that was raised over Fort McHenry in September 1814 following the Battle of Baltimore and Francis Scott Key's inspiration to write our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. 

I saw the actual Star-Spangled Banner for the first time in 1988 when I was 16. At that time, it was hanging in the Smithsonian with a moveable panel in front of it. Every 15 minutes, the panel would lower, the music would play, and visitors could view the flag for a few minutes until it was covered again. I remember being shocked at how large it was (30 ft x 34 ft). I was even more surprised to learn that the flag had originally been 8 feet longer, but approximately 20 square feet and one star had been cut away for people to keep as souvenirs. This website is an excellent source for information. 

Here's my version of this remarkable piece of our history:

To make your own, start with a 5" x 7" piece of chipboard. I used the insert that comes when you order US stamps. The original Star-Spangled Banner was 30' x 42', so the proportions are perfect. Use the ruler and pen to make fifteen stripes on the flag, each 1/3." Most rulers don't measure thirds of an inch, so mark just slightly more than 5/16" and it will work. The blue field is the height of 8 stripes, which is 2 2/3". Make a vertical line to create the rest of the field 2 2/3" from the left of the flag. For these purposes, 2 11/16" is close enough. 

Bend, roll, fold, and twist the chipboard until it is soft and wrinkled.

Gently tear the right side of the flag to change it from the original dimensions of 5" x 7" to approximately 5" x 5 2/3". Use a photo of the Star-Spangled Banner to mimic the shape of the missing area.

Use a pen to mark 15 stars in the field. They are arranged in five staggered rows of three.

Use scissors to poke a hole where the 15th star goes, then gently tear that area out. Gently tear holes along the lowest two white stripes, matching the missing sections on the actual flag.

While the flag was originally red, white and blue, the Star-Spangled Banner has aged a bit in 202 years. Paint the field a dark blue mixed with a touch of brown. Combine red and brown to make the red stripes and use a yellow-brown mix to make the white stripes. Let the paint dry. 

I practiced trying to paint stars on a scrap and realized it was way too difficult at that small size. So I found a small star die-cut and glued it to the end of a q-tip. 

I dipped the star in paint and stamped it 14 times. The stars aren't perfect, but they're better and took way less time than if I'd tried to paint them by hand!

Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Wishing all my fellow Americans a safe and happy Independence Day! May we appreciate and cherish the freedom we have.


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