August History Alive


From the desk of
Burt Kummerow

Volume 2 Issue 8
August 1, 2013

Dear Reader,

July was a pioneering month for our 169-year-old institution. We tried some crowd sourcing with our friends at Kickstarter, and our new foray into the computer world was a great success!

Over 160 of you felt as strongly as our quilters who diligently stitched all month. You pledged a total of $10,600 and your 30' x'42' Star-Spangled Banner is quickly taking shape in our auditorium. The new flag will make history this year and next - and you made it possible!

Star Spangled Banner Laid Out
The Recreated Star-Spangled Banner is stitched completely by hand
After a busy August, filled with talented stitchers from far and wide, we will raise our new flag at Fort McHenry, 199 years after it went up the fort flagpole, chasing off the British and inspiring Francis Scott Key.

Matched up with our iconic first manuscript of Francis Scott Key's immortal words, the flag will be a potent symbol and legacy of a proud bicentennial for Baltimore, Maryland and the rest of the country.

You have inspired all of us and 200 volunteer quilters, along with hundreds of volunteer stitchers, thank you for this achievement.

Remembering Summers of Conflict

The United States has had some difficult summers during its first two centuries, and Maryland has often been in the middle of the trouble. Armies of the past created a lot of mischief during the warm weather months, and 1863-64 as well as 1813-14, now being commemorated with sesquicentennials and bicentennials, almost ended the American Experience.

Think of the crowning moments of 1863 on Cemetery Ridge near Gettysburg on July 3 and in downtown Vicksburg on July 4. Maybe those Union victories turned the tide but there was still much terrible fighting ahead. Just two weeks after Gettysburg, another little known battle in South Carolina also gave the North even more hope for victory.

Fourth Regiment United States Colored Troops Flag
Fourth Regiment United States Colored Troops Flag, Silk mounted on a wooden pole (with the eagle missing), 1863, MdHS
A regiment of black soldiers, the 54th Massachusetts, attacked an impregnable rebel fort, lost 42% of the men in their ranks and proved that African Americans could fight even faced with impossible odds. Within a month, regiments of "Colored Troops" were assembling in several northern cities. By the time the fighting ended in 1865, 140,000 black men, slave and free, had joined the ranks and turned the tide for the Yankees. Our Civil War Gallery is displaying a flag of the 4th U.S. Colored Troops along with the story of Christian Fleetwood, the Regiment's Sergeant Major and a Medal of Honor recipient. No regiment and no man demonstrate more the bravery and sacrifice of the black soldiers fighting for their freedom.

A half century earlier, the young U.S. Republic faced dark summers that the nation's founders could hardly imagine. Along with the hot and humid Chesapeake weather, the British Redcoats in the form of fierce Royal Marines were raiding practically defenseless towns and plantations at will around the Bay. The future looked bleak for our newly-formed democracy.

As the Maryland Historical Society begins its own Star-Spangled Year, we have setbacks and sacrifice to remember as well as victories and celebrations. Among our many historic flags, the torn and tattered banner of Baltimore's own Sgt. Christian Fleetwood and his 4th USCT Regiment deserves a place of honor alongside the giant Star-Spangled Banner we are so lovingly creating for the 2014 Bicentennial Commemoration.

Our Biggest Public Event of the Year
Starts This Weekend

Lead Stitcher Katie Bopp shows Bridgette Van Valkenburgh how to add her stitch.
Well, it's finally here! After weeks of diligent, hard work from our expert stitchers, the flag is in great shape and ready for your stitch.

On Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 11 from noon until 4 pm we are hosting our Public Sewing Days.

As you know, our Star-Spangled Banner project is a work of public art in every sense of the word.

Our generous online supporters have funded the purchase of the red, white, and blue reproduction fabric commissioned by Family Heirloom Weavers in Red Lion, PA.

Our expert volunteers have already devoted hundreds of hours getting the flag into flyable shape.

Now it's up to you, our readers, to be part of history and add your stitch during our Public Days.

Dibby Gundry
We have put together a few details to make your experience on August 3 and August 11 as seamless as possible (pun intended).

Arrival: Come to the Maryland Historical Society anytime between noon and 4 pm. When you get here, simply check in at our registration desk right by the front doors. There you will receive a timed-ticket, which will be arranged by 15-minute increments. We are expecting quite a crowd, but we don't anticipate you will have to wait long. We will do our best to keep groups and families together.

Even if you haven't registered to add your stitch (and registration is now closed), you can still come down and enjoy the festivities. As time permits, we will try to accommodate as many extra 'stitchers' as we can.

While you are here, we will have many other fun 1812 activities! There will be live music from our 1812 band, living history actors in period costume, exhibit tables and lectures from our friends and partners, craft vendors including silhouette artist Lauren Muney, an expanded Museum Shop, and delicious food vendors outside of the Museum.

Maryland Historical Society
Museum admission will be FREE on August 3 and August 11.

Museum admission will be FREE all day, so you can check out our 1812 exhibit, our Civil War exhibit and our brand-new "Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and Her Quest for an Imperial Legacy" exhibit that just opened in June.

Just by participating in our Public Sewing Days, you will also receive a special Stitching History stamp in the 1812 Bicentennial Passport, a free passport from the Baltimore National Heritage Area that includes over a dozen Baltimore-area historical sites.

Free parking will be available in the lot adjoining The Maryland Historical Society. There are additional paid lots at 505 Park Avenue (by the Aegon Building), 600 Cathedral Street (across from The Walters Art Museum) and 401 N Charles Street (at Charles and Franklin Streets)

We are also conveniently located on the free Circulator Bus Purple Route - take the Washington Monument Stop, and we are also located just feet from the Light Rail - Centre Street Station.

This is the ultimate participatory event, and an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We are proud to share this special day with you, and excited to have you take part of our historic project!

A Sneak Peek at Our Upcoming
Defender's Day Celebration

Volunteers Learning 19th Century Stitching Techniques
Courtesy U.S. Army Old Guard

Even if you can't participate in our Public Sewing Days, don't fret. We are planning a year's worth of fabulous Star-Spangled events, beginning in September.

Defender's Day is Baltimore's oldest holiday. It honors the successful defense of the city from British attack and the writing of the National Anthem in 1814.

This year we will celebrate Defender's Day on the weekend of September 13-September 15. We are partnering with Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine, the United States Mint, and the U.S. Army to put together a truly unforgettable weekend.

On Friday, September 13, we will have a special Star-Spangled Ceremony here at The Maryland Historical Society and will host a procession taking the recreated Star-Spangled Banner flag to Fort McHenry.

While we are keeping mum on the details (for now), we can say that the U.S. Army Old Guard will literally "guard" the banner on its journey to Fort McHenry!

That evening, you are invited to participate in unfurling the Star-Spangled Banner flag at Fort McHenry. The Federal Hill cannon will be fired, just like it did back in 1814, when it sounded the alarm of the arrival of the British fleet.

Eighty Living Historians will place a wreath at the monuments to General Sam Smith and Major George Armistead.

Fort McHenry Quarter
On Saturday, September 14, beginning at 8am at Fort McHenry: New Fort McHenry quarters will be available (while supplies last)!

That's right. The newest quarter in the United States Mint America the Beautiful Quarters® Program for 2013 features Fort McHenry and the Star-Spangled Banner!

You can exchange cash for new Fort McHenry quarters in $10 increments (while supplies last), courtesy M&T Bank. There is a $10, one roll minimum and $100, 10 roll maximum.

There will also be large living history encampment featuring military drills, cooking demonstrations, musket firing, dress parade, cannon firing and a children's program featuring authors and local historians. This is the perfect family event.

Beginning at 6pm, the recreated Star-Spangled Banner flag will be transported on a horse-drawn caisson consisting of seven beautiful horses.

This is the same horse-drawn caisson used at Arlington National Cemetery, and it's the first time it has ever left the Cemetery grounds.

The U.S. Army Drill Team will showcase a precision drill followed by a cannon-firing "battle" demonstrating the tactics used to defend Baltimore back in 1814. There will also be a patriotic concert by the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers' Chorus performing the "1812 Overture".

And, as the sun sets, a symbolic ship-to-shore "bombardment" will commence, with pyrotechnic "bombs bursting in air" over the Fort and cannon thunder replies. The flag will be ceremoniously raised over the fort, to the singing of the National Anthem.

A 30-minute large fireworks display will provide the capstone to the evening.

It will be truly spectacular.

So mark your calendars now for our Defender's Day celebration!

Other Maryland Historical Society Events

David Brewster
Image courtesy MdHS 
In the fall of 2015 the Maryland Historical Society will present a year-long retrospective exhibition by David Brewster, a native Marylander and award-winning painter. Along with many of Brewster's works already in private collections he will be creating new paintings inspired by events of Maryland history. This exhibition will enable visitors to look at Maryland history through a contemporary lens.

Experience a taste of this forthcoming collaboration by visiting C. Grimaldis Gallery at 523 N. Charles Street on September 12 for an opening reception featuring a solo exhibit of Brewster's new body of work. The reception at Grimaldis Gallery on September 12th from 6:00 to 8:00pm is open to the public. For more information call C. Grimaldis Gallery at 410-539-1080. For more information on David Brewster, see

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Speaking of Trivia...

Trivia Time!

Congratulations to everyone who correctly answered last month's question!

F. Scott Fitzgerald is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. While his friends and family called him Scott, his full name was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, and he was named after his famous second cousin, three times removed.

Fitzgerald lived in the Baltimore area while his wife, Zelda, was treated for mental illness at the Sheppard Pratt sanatorium and the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Both are buried at the family plot in Saint Mary's Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland.

Ready for this month's question?

Question: Before it moved to Annapolis in 1695, St. Mary's City was the first capital of Maryland. It was founded in 1634 by English settlers who sailed into the Chesapeake Bay and up the St. Mary's River on the Dove and the Ark. In the new colony, land could be distributed and freedom of religious worship was practiced via the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649. Who wrote this act, and why would such a law need to be established?

Email us your answer, and you, too, could win a prize! Best of luck.

Until next month,

Burton Kummerow
President, The Maryland Historical Society
Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. The society's mission is to "collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland's diverse cultural heritage." The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled "Maryland Historical Magazine." The Society is located at 201 W. Monument Street and open to the public Wednesday-Saturday from 10 am-5 pm, and Sunday (library only) 12 pm-5pm.