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The “star-spangled Banner” Mystery

July 2024
1min read

We have, unintentionally, baffled a number of our readers—and ourselves—with a picture that we ran in our August, 1972, issue. It appears on page 73 and shows a group of pa- triotic ladies diligently repairing the huge flag that Francis Scott Key watched flying over Fort McHenry while the words of our national anthem began to come together in his head. But this inspirational scene is marred by a grotesque apparition hanging in the air above the banner. Among others, Mr. John Hood, of Houston, Texas, wrote to ask us “What is that Thing soaring over their work table? Fifty people have looked at this picture and not offered a single sensible suggestion.” We had no idea and questioned the owners of the picture at the Smithsonian Institution. They looked into the mystery and came back with an answer. It is some sort of cactuslike plant in a pot that has been hauled up and braced with ropes to keep it out of the way of the restoration in progress. Too bad; we had hoped for a heathen idol.

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