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Washington - Responding to President Clinton's call to preserve our heritage for the 21st century, Polo Ralph Lauren has pledged 13 million dollars to save "The Star Spangled Banner", the flag that inspired our national anthem.

"The Star Spangled Banner was an inspiration to Francis Scott Key, it's been an inspiration for me, and I want it to be an inspiration for future generations." - Ralph Lauren, chairman and CEO, Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation.

The donation kicks off the Save America's Treasures campaign to preserve and restore the nation's past for our future. The White House Millennium initiative, led by President and Mrs. Clinton, was announced in the State of the Union address earlier this year.

Polo Ralph Lauren's donation is the single largest corporate gift ever received by the Smithsonian Institution in its 150 year history.

"The flag is an inspiration for all Americans and it captures the dreams and imaginations of men and women all over the world. I am a product of the American dream and the flag is its symbol. We at Polo Ralph Lauren are incredibly honored to be able to make this possible." - Ralph Lauren, chairman and CEO, Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation.

Francis Scott Key watched from a ship off Baltimore as the British bombarded Fort McHenry the night of September 13th-14th, 1814. When Key saw the flag flying at dawn he knew that the fledgling nation had withstood the attack. And so he wrote a poem, called "The Defense of Fort McHenry", soon renamed "The Star Spangled Banner", which became our national anthem in 1931.

Commissioned by the War Department, the flag was hand sewn in 1813 by Mary Pickersgill of Baltimore and her 13-year-old daughter. It bears 15 stars and 15 stripes, measures 30 feet x 34 feet and weighs 150 pounds.

The flag was presented to the Smithsonian in 1907 by descendants of Mayor George Armistead, the Commander at Fort McHenry. It has been the centrepiece of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History since its installation there in 1963.

In October it will be removed to a specially designed, climate controlled conservation laboratory. Housed on site at the National Museum of American History, the glass walls will allow the museum's over 15 million annual visitors to view the work in progress. Completion of the restoration is scheduled for late 2001 and reinstallation is planned for 2002 in a prominent and dramatic setting within the Museum.

The U.S dollars 13 million gift will be made over five years to the Smithsonian Institution through the Millennium Committee's Save America's Treasures for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The thirteen million dollars includes ten million dollars for the conservation project and three million dollars for educational and outreach programmes over the next five years.

SOURCE Polo Ralph Lauren

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