MAJOR GEORGE ARMISTEAD (April 10, 1780 – April 25, 1818), commander of Fort McHenry, was showered with honors for his performance at Fort McHenry, had little time to enjoy his new fame. Although he continued to suffer bouts of fatigue, he remained on active duty. At some point the big flag left the fort and was taken to his home in Baltimore. There is no record that it—officially government property—was ever transferred to him. "How did he end up with the flag? There is no receipt." Perhaps the banner was so tattered from use that it was no longer considered fit for service—a fate it shared with Armistead. Just four years after his triumph, he died of unknown causes. He was 38

The big banner passed to his widow, Louisa Hughes Armistead, and became known as her "precious relic" in the local press. She apparently kept it within the Baltimore city limits but lent it out for at least five patriotic celebrations. When Louisa Armistead died in 1861, she left the flag to her daughter, Georgiana Armistead Appleton, just as a new war broke out. That conflict, the bloodiest in America's history, brought new attention to the flag, which became a symbol of the momentous struggle between North and South.

With the end of the Civil War and the approach of the nation's centennial in 1876, Georgiana Appleton was pressed by visitors who wanted to see the flag and by patriots wishing to borrow it for ceremonies. She obliged as many of them as she thought reasonable, even allowing some to snip fragments from the banner as souvenirs. Just how many became obvious in 1873, when the flag was photographed for the first time, hanging from a third-floor window at the Boston Navy Yard.

It was a sad sight. Red stripes had split from their seams, drooping away from white ones; much of the bunting appeared to be threadbare; the banner was riddled with holes, from wear and tear, insect damage—and perhaps combat; a star was gone from the canton. The rectangular flag that Mary Pickersgill had delivered to Fort McHenry was now almost square, having lost about eight feet of material.  Read the entire report at: Smithsonianmag.com