Mary Young Pickersgill of Baltimore sewed the most famous flag in American history during the summer of 1813.
Maj. George Armistead commissioned the flag that was hoisted at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. He wanted a flag so large that the British would have no trouble seeing it from a great distance. The original Star Spangled Banner had fifteen stripes and fifteen stars and was 30 feet by 42 feet.
Mary Pickersgill had a flag-making business in Baltimore when the Major brought her the monumental task. Pickersgill did not complete the flag alone. In early summer 1813, she began the job with the assistance of her daughter, Caroline, her two nieces, Eliza Young and Margaret Young, a free African American apprentice, Grace Wisher, and likely her elderly mother, Rebecca Young. It was completed in 6 weeks.
The flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem now resides in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
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