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Joining a number of other coin bills that have been proposed in the 111th Congress, Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., added S. 653 on March 19, a bill authorizing a gold $5 coin and a silver dollar to mark the bicentennial of the writing of “the Star-Spangled Banner” during the War of 1812.

It differs from a bill that he introduced in the 110th Congress commemorating the same general theme, S. 3525, in that the 2009 version has added a gold coin (maximum mintage 100,000). The silver dollars would be limited to 500,000 pieces.

 The bill would “require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the bicentennial of the writing of the ‘Star-Spangled Banner,’ and for other purposes” was referred  to the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

During the War of 1812, which actually was a multi-year conflict with the British not ending until 1815, Francis Scott Key, a lawyer, visited the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay on Sept. 13, 1814, to secure the release of Dr. William Beanes, who had been captured after the burning of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The release was completed, but Key was held by the British overnight during the shelling of Fort McHenry, one of the forts defending Baltimore. The following morning, Key peered through clearing smoke to see an enormous American flag flying after a 25-hour British bombardment.

Key began a poem to commemorate the garrison flag’s survival, with a note that it should be sung to the popular British melody, “To Anacreon in Heaven.” The poem was called “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  The tattered flag today hangs in the Smithsonian Institution museum in Washington where a $3-million restoration was recently completed.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that it be played at military and naval occasions and in 1931, the “Star-Spangled Banner” became our National Anthem.

Fort McHenry is located today in Baltimore harbor.  Surcharge proceeds go to the Maryland 1812 War Bicentennial Commission.

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