By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK — What better way to commemorate the bicentennial of a song than to unfurl a 135-year-old version of the banner it honors?
At 2 p.m. Sept. 13, the Lincoln Park Historical Museum will mark the 200th anniversary of the country’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” with a rare unfolding of one of the museum’s treasures, a U.S. flag from 1877, complete with gold fringe and 38 stars.
Muriel Lobb — longtime volunteer who retired this summer after more than a decade as museum director — said last week that surprises and activities were still being planned to mark the milestone of the day Francis Scott Key was inspired to write a poem which he later set to music and in 1931 became the national anthem.
Held captive on a British ship on the Patapsco River during the overnight bombardment of Fort McHenry — which protected the mouth of Baltimore Harbor — during the War of 1812, Key penned his poem after seeing the 15-star garrison flag —now known as the Star-Spangled Banner — raised the morning of Sept. 14, 1814.
Lobb said the museum will join a national celebration with a month-long exhibit and special day of celebration. The antique flag — a 1976 gift to the museum from Richard and Esther Davis to commemorate the nation’s bicentennial — will make a rare appearance outside its protective case, and will only be unfurled one time each on Saturday and Sunday.
“We have never exhibited it in any way formally until now,” Lobb said.
The occasion was too good to resist, however, and museum staff put together an ambitious display and commemorative day.
Other activities include renditions of the anthem performed live by high school bands, and on recordings including player-piano rolls and 78 rpm recordings by Bing Crosby and Kate Smith, played on the museum’s prized Victrola.
The museum also will host a photo contest for resident images of “The National Anthem” or “The U.S. Flag,” and welcomes color or black-and-white submissions with a flag or patriotic theme.
Entrants have until Saturday, Sept. 6 to submit an original 8X10 print and complete an entry form, available at the museum or via www.lphistory.org, and entries will join the month-long display.
The museum’s exhibit, “A Bicentennial: Our National Anthem 200th Anniversary,” will be on display through the end of September at 1335 Southfield Road.
For information on the museum, exhibit or celebration call 313-386-3137.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)