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Making History: The creation of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag

According to Flag House documents, the creation of the Star-Spangled Banner began when Mary Young Pickersgill was approached by Major George Armistead and was asked to create a flag to fly over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. She wasn't

asked to create just any flag, she was asked to create a flag so large that the British troops would easily identify Armistead's position from a far distance. Mrs. Pickersgill, a Baltimore widow who had had experience making ship flags, was ready for the challenge. Officers of Major Armistead explained that they wanted a U.S. flag that measured 30 feet by 42 feet. Mrs. Pickersgill agreed to the job.

With the help of her 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, Mrs. Pickersgill spent several weeks measuring, cutting, and sewing the 15 stars and stripes. Each stripe was 2 feet wide and each star was 2 feet from tip to tip. When the time came to sew the elements of the flag together, they realized that their house was not large enough. Mrs. Pickersgill then asked the owner of nearby Claggett's brewery for permission to assemble the flag on the building's basement floor during evening hours. He agreed, and the women worked by candlelight to finish it.

Once completed, the flag was delivered to the committee, and Mrs. Pickersgill was paid $405.90. In August 1813, it was presented to Major Armistead, but, as things turned out, more than a year would pass before hostile forces threatened Baltimore.

Related Stories

Have a patriotic party: The Flag House and Star-Spangled Banner Museum is a great place to hold your next event.

Museum History: From Past to Present: When the Flag House became a museum in 1927, the first curators lived in the upper stories of Mary Pickersgill's 19th century home and ran the bottom floor as a museum.

Passing on the Knowledge: The Girl Scout program: The Girl Scout program at the Flag House is one of the most popular programs offered.

The Flag House: Creating New History: Children and adults can spend time learning about history without going far: the Flag House and Star-Spangled Banner Museum has what they need.