227 years ago today, the United States Constitution was signed by 39 men.  This document, along with the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, can be viewed in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom at the National Archives.  NARA provides on its web site both high-resolution images of the document along with transcriptions.  The displays of these documents in the Rotunda are flanked by a display that attempts to answer two questions:

  • “How did they happen?”
  • “Why are they important?”

These seem to be valuable questions that could (and should) be posed about many of the documents in archival collections.  At NARA, they display other documents from their holdings to help provide this context.

Given that there has been much discussion over the years about the original intent of these constitutional fathers, it is interesting to note that there are some mistakes in its original version.  A political scientist outlined these mistakes in a 2012 article in Prologue.

Today is also the 200th anniversary of the poem written by Francis Scott Key in response to the victory of the Americans against the British in a battle at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  He originally titled his poem “Defence of Fort McHenry.”  It was set to the tune of a popular British song and re-christened “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  A 1931 congressional resolution, signed by President Hoover, established this song as the national anthem of the United States.  The flag that was flying at Fort McHenry is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

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