Monday, August 5, 2013

Flag Making in Baltimore

There once was a flagmaker named Mary Pickersgill who lived in Baltimore with her daughter Caroline.  Caroline was born in 1800 into a family of important flagmakers, her grandmother having sewn flags for General George Washington's Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

In 1812, the United States was at war with Britain.  One day the flag shop was visited by Major George Armistead and two other military officers from Fort McHenry, a star-shaped fort that protects the mouth of the Inner Harbor of Baltimore.

They requested that Mary make the largest flag possible...so that there would be no way the British could miss seeing it should they sail into Baltimore harbor.



Over the following weeks, Mary, Caroline, a couple of nieces, and an African-American indentured servant sewed approximately 350,000 stitches over four hundred yards of wool bunting to make the 30'x42' flag that came go be known as the Star Spangled Banner.



Since there were no flag standards at the time, the flag had 15 stars and 15 stripes.

The stars were two feet wide from point to point...



And the stripes were each two feet wide, making this young lady just over 4 feet tall...



The flag became too large to contain in the flag shop so the women moved it to the floor of an alehouse where they could lay it out to complete work on it.  It took them six weeks to complete the flag and Mary was paid $405.90.

Two years later, Baltimore watched as Washington D.C. fell and was burned by the British.  They prepared themselves to fight.  As expected, the British sailed into Baltimore harbor on September 13 and 14, 1814.

And it was Mary's flag that flew that night over Fort McHenry, the same flag that Francis Scott Key saw in the dawn's early light and the same flag which inspired him to write the Star-Spangled Banner which became our National Anthem.

The Maryland Historical Society is following Mary's path and re-stitching that same flag in the same six weeks in honor of the Battle's 200th year anniversary.



They have enlisted many quilting guilds in the area to do the bulk of the work but they are holding public stitching days so that anyone who is interested can go and take a stitch...


I found a couple of hours to zip down there on Saturday...


And put my stitch into this ginormous flag!


The next and last public stitch day is on Sunday, August 11, 2013 from Noon to 3.  

If you're in the Baltimore area, I highly recommend you stop by.  You can pre-register here...but if you forget, I think they would still welcome you.

They have re-enactors in period costume...


Who share all the history of this important flag...


People of all ages and sizes came to stitch on the flag that will fly over Fort McHenry this Defender's Day on Saturday, September 14.  


Though I was by myself, I had fun capturing the joy of this family that was next to me...


I don't know what it was about putting a stitch in the flag...


But everyone who did so seemed to love it!


You can see the original Star Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian's American History Museum in Washington, D.C.

And you might be interested in a prior post I wrote about Defender's Day in Baltimore here.

17 comments:

gracie said...

What a wonderful project! How marvelous of you to put a few stitches in! Thsnk you for sharing the history of the event complete with pictures.

Laurie said...

I totally love this post!! What an awesome project, and that you were able to participate. I love the looks on the faces of those putting their stitches on the flag.
Thank-you for sharing this with us!

Createology said...

Your happy smile is fabulous! I think this project is amazing and to be able to stitch on this flag would really add to the joy of being an American! If only all folks could be so touched and proud as these photos depict. Thank you for sharing this wonderful project. Blissful dear...

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

You are lucky to live in such a historical location and that you are able to participate in so many patriotic events. This had to be one of the best yet!
xx, Carol

Chocolates4Breakfast (TerriBoog) said...

What a great post! I've seen the flag in the Smithsonian and its size is amazing, Wish I lived nearby, I'd love to put in a stitch or two!

Judy S. said...

What a fun project! And a story I"d not heard before. I'm glad you took the time to add some stitches. What fun! Great photos, too.

Catherine said...

What a great project ~ how fun that your were able to include your stitches!

DebbieSFL said...

How cool!! And I am so glad that you had the opportunity to do some stitching on the flag.

Allison Aller said...

That picture of you stiching onto this Flag...it is the Quintessential Susan. GLORIOUS!!!!!

Mosaic Magpie said...

What an amazing project! It would be such an honor to place a stitch on such a piece. The photos of the family brought a tear to my eye... what a memory they created that day. Your smiling face must have been repeated many times that day.
Deb

Rachel said...

What a wonderful commemorative project, and will give a great insight into what was involved...

Suztats said...

Fabulous to have a part in this recreation! What a proud moment for many when that flag flies.

tattrldy said...

We saw the flag at the Smithsonian a few years ago and read about it's creation. But reading about it doesn't convey the enormity of the project as well as the hands-on of this event. How wonderful that you were able to participate! Great post!

sudukc said...

Oh how cool! It gives me goose bumps just reading about it. I so wish I were closer I would be there in a heartbeat.
I ever miss going to see "Old Glory" when I am in DC and it has been much too long since I have been there. I really envy you living on the east coast among all that history that I am afraid many of the new generation are taking for granted.

Jessie Wasmuth said...

I think this is just wonderful. I've enjoyed the pictures of the stitching the flag. How wonderful to see so many who still love our flag. It's heartwarming..thank you for posting.

Marnie said...

So awesome!

Mary said...

I so wish I knew about this earlier. I would have loved to participate. So glad you got to go. Great shot of you, by the way!

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