Fourth of July Kickoff Celebration: The 'Stitching History' Star Spangled Banner Project Begins!

BALTIMORE, June 21, 2013: Beginning July 4, 2013, The Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) will be recreating the 30 x 42 foot Star-Spangled Banner flag that inspired the writing of our national anthem. The flag is an authentic reproduction of the original and will take more than 100 volunteer stitchers six weeks to complete. The July 4 start of the project will be heralded with great fanfare at Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine in Baltimore, MD, including the 'first stitch' sewn by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Thousands of people are expected to attend this event. 

 

Beginning at 11:40 am on July 4, the Fort McHenry Fife and Drum Corps will lead a procession around the Fort carrying the flag materials to the dais and flag pole. The Star Spangled Banner materials will be unfurled, along with two other replica United States flags. The 'first stitch' will be added, with the event culminating with canon fire and great celebration.

 

After the first stitch, the general public is invited to witness The Maryland Historical Society's team of expert volunteer stitchers as they get underway recreating the flag. The volunteers will be located in the Fort McHenry Education Center and will be available for photos and media interviews between 12:30 pm and 4 pm.

 

The complete Public Event schedule at Fort McHenry on July 4 is as follows:
9:30 am: Flag Change in Star Fort
11 am: Poetry reading and public Recitation of the Declaration of Independence
11 am: Fife and Drum Corps march through Federal Hill, Baltimore
11:40 am: Parade from Visitor Center with fifes and drums
Noon: 'First Stitch' Ceremony of the Stitching History: Recreating the Star Spangled Banner
2 pm: Canon Firing
3 pm: Public Recitation of the Declaration of Independence
4:30 pm: Flag Change 

 

Throughout the day, there will be children's activities, men and women dressed in 1812 regalia interacting with the crowds, festive red, white and blue bunting decorating the Fort, and singing at the Historic Tavern Tent.

 

Why Begin at Fort McHenry?

 

In 1813, Major George Armistead, Commander of Fort McHenry, commissioned Mary Pickersgill to create the original Star Spangled Banner. It flew over the Fort and remained intact during the Battle of Baltimore, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner poem. In commemoration of these historic events, The Maryland Historical Society wishes to launch the Star Spangled Banner Project at Fort McHenry on Independence Day.

 

The finished flag will be flown at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine during Defender's Day in September, 2013. It will also be used for school programs and other public events in the Bicentennial year of the writing of the national anthem and the defense of the city of Baltimore.

 

 

The Story Behind The 'Stitching History' Project:

 

The idea to recreate the Star Spangled Banner originated with The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House. Inspired by this idea, The Maryland Historical Society has worked hard to make it come to life. The project entails recreating the Star Spangled banner using authentic materials and the same stitching techniques that Mary Pickersgill used 200 years ago. The Maryland Historical Society will finish the flag in the same timeframe - just 6 weeks - that Pickersgill did.

 

"We are so fortunate, during the Bicentennial celebrations, to make an idea like this come alive!" says Kristin Schenning, MdHS Director of Education. "It means so much for our state of Maryland, and its place in American history."

 

The Maryland Historical Society has recruited more than 100 experienced quilters from around the country to construct the majority of the flag. After the July 4 kickoff, from July 5-August 22, the group will gather in MdHS' France Hall and, by working up to eight hours a day, they will assemble the flag in three sections, including: the long stripes, the short stripes, and the blue field. Descendants of Mary Pickersgill are scheduled to participate.

 

Public Sewing Days: Add Your Stitch and Be a Part of History!

 

On Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 11 from noon until 3 p.m. the general public is invited to come and add a stitch to the flag. During these days, MdHS will host the Fort McHenry Fife and Drum Corps, celebrity guest appearances, actors in period costume, exhibit tables from friends and partners, and mobile food vendors outside of the Museum. To register for the public days, visit www.mdhs.org/events.

 

"This is the ultimate participatory event," says President Burt Kummerow. "It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Visitors will be able to participate in the creation of an artifact that will become part of the nation's proud history."

 

Participants in the sewing days will also receive a stamp in the 1812 Bicentennial Passport, a free passport from the Baltimore National Heritage Area that includes over a dozen Baltimore-area historical sites.

 

About The Original Star Spangled Banner

 

Mary Pickersgill, a local flag maker, worked with her daughter Caroline, nieces Eliza and Margaret Young, and African American indentured servant Grace Wisher to complete the flag in six weeks in the summer of 1813.  Two hundred years later, it is the goal of MdHS to recreate the flag during the same time period. 

 

The original flag was made from English wool bunting, a loosely woven, light-weight material common in flag-making before the advent of nylon.  MdHS has commissioned the recreation of this fabric by Family Heirloom Weavers in Red Lion, PA.

 

 

Related Collaborations 

 

MdHS is proudly partnering with The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, the Maryland 1812 Bicentennial Commission, Star Spangled 200 and the National Park Service Star-Spangled Banner Trail.

 

Saleable Items 

 

While the 30'x42' flag is underway, a smaller, 4'x6' flag will also be made using the same authentic materials. This flag will be auctioned off in a raffle on Defender's Day, 2014.

 

In addition,a build-it-yourself American flag kit will be sold at the MdHS Gift Shop and on its website. This kit will contain 15 precut stripes and 15 iron-on stars that families and classrooms can assemble together. As a special bonus, purchasers of this kit can have their completed flags flown at Fort McHenry! For more details, visit www.mdhs.org  

 

Hours/Admission 

 

The Maryland Historical Society Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. After June 9, general admission to the Maryland Historical Society is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for children ages 3-18 and free for children under 3. For more information, visit, www.mdhs.org 

 

The Maryland Historical Society is deeply grateful to the many funders who have made this project possible, including the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, Star Spangled Banner 200 Inc., The Star-Spangled Banner Trail, and F.W. Haxel & Co.

 

About 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." Visit www.mdhs.org.

 

For more information, contact Marketing Director Laura Rodini at 410-685-3750 Ext. 322 or lrodini@mdhs.org.

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