July 4 trivia: Who sewed the star-spangled banner that inspired the song?
This July 4, the Maryland Historical Society is kicking off an effort to sew a reproduction of the star-spangled banner using materials as close as possible to those used by the original seamstress.
Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That’s something every US schoolchild learns. But who made the star-spangled banner itself? No, not the song – the flag that inspired lawyer and amateur poet Key to write what became the US national anthem.Skip to next paragraph
Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.
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The answer to that is Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore widow and noted flag seamstress who created the giant Stars and Stripes that floated in air above Fort McHenry on Sept. 14, 1814 – “still there” the morning after a ferocious British bombardment.
Pickersgill is not exactly an unsung hero of the banner story. Her former home has been preserved as a small, charming museum in Charm City’s downtown.
But she’s certainly less sung, compared with Key. This July 4, the Maryland Historical Society is aiming to boost her profile. It's kicking off an effort to sew a reproduction of the star-spangled banner using materials as close as possible to those Pickersgill used, in the same amount of time she needed to complete the original.
It’s a celebration of the flag’s bicentennial, since it was made in the summer of 1813. You can donate toward the project’s cost on Kickstarter or come sew a stitch yourself during public stitching days in August.
“It is a work of public art in every sense of the word,” the Maryland Historical Society boasts.
Back in 1813, Pickersgill was Baltimore’s best-known flagmaker. This was a good career for a widow and single mother in a port city where ships needed flags and banners of all kinds.