Why the American Flag Is Called the Star-Spangled Banner

The American flag is often referred to as the Star-Spangled Banner. It’s a common nickname that’s been used for over a century to describe the American flag. Even after all those years, many Americans still refer to the country’s flag as the Star-Spangled Banner. Unless you’re familiar with the history behind the American flag, though, you might be wondering why it’s called the Star-Spangled Banner.

The Story Behind the Star-Spangled Banner

The story behind the Star-Spangled Banner can be traced back to the American Revolution. During the Battle of Baltimore, American lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key was captured by British forces. He was then taken prisoner aboard a British ship. The British naval forces had their crosshairs set on Fort McHenry, which they shelled continuously for over 24 hours. Even through all the shelling, the American flag continued to fly gracefully above the American fort. From his jail cell, Key watched as the American flag withstood the bombardment from British naval forces. This gave key inspiration to write a poem known as “Defense of Fort McHenry,” which would later become known as the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

In the years to follow, many Americans began calling the American flag the Star-Spangled Banner because it was Key’s poem. Key’s poem was inspirational to say the least. He recognized the American flag as being a symbol of freedom — something that was worth fighting for. As he sat from his jail cell aboard a British ship, Key saw was inspired to write the “Defense of Fort of Henry.” Over the years, the American flag acquired the nickname of the Star-Spangled Banner in reference to Key’s poem.

The original American flag flown over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore is now on display at the Smithsonian Museum. You can see this historic American Flag by visiting the Smithsonian Museum. It’s also worth mentioning that parts of Key’s poem were used to create the National Anthem. It doesn’t include all lines of Key’s original poem. Nonetheless, the United States National Anthem does, in fact, include portions of Key’s poem.

Other Nicknames for the American Flag

In addition to the Star-Spangled Banner, the American flag has been given other nicknames, including Old Glory and Stars and Stripes. It’s called Old Glory in reference to shipmaster Captain William Driver, who described the American flag as in 1837. It’s also called Stars and Stripes in reference to the American flag’s 50 stars and 13 stripes.