(I don't know why the link isn't working here's the url: http://www.amazon.com/Flying-Cheese-Stories-Ordinary-Volume/dp/1480262773)
Happy Fourth, everyone!
Pickersgill. It’s an unusual name. Unusual, but fitting, for Mary Pickersgill was given an unusual task.
In the midst of The War of 1812 between the British and the Americans, Mary Pickersgill, a widowed Baltimore flag maker, was asked to sew a flag. But not just an ordinary flag. Major George Armistead wanted a big flag, a very big flag, to fly over Fort McHenry at the entrance to Baltimore Harbor. So Mary and her 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, spent weeks in the summer of 1813 assembling a flag measuring 30 feet by 42 feet. That's as big as almost 30 ping pong tables.
By September of 1814, the British had burned Washington, D.C., and were bombing Fort McHenry from land and sea. An American attorney was watching the battle from aboard a British ship, having just negotiated the release of an elderly physician who had been taken captive. The battle continued into the night until the British abandoned the attack, judging it would be too costly to complete the task. As the smoke cleared and the sun rose, this attorney saw Mary Pickersgill's flag flying over Fort McHenry. He was inspired to write these words:
Oh, say can you see,
By the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilights' last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
Yes, Mary Pickersgill's flag became known as the Star Spangled Banner. The flag survives to this day and hangs in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. Mary Pickersgill's home has been converted into a museum called Flag House.
Pickersgill. It is an unusual name. But it's a name forever linked with The Star Spangled Banner, an unforgettable flag.
Source: Honor Our Flag, David Singleton, The Globe Pequot Press, 2002
(c) Rebecca K. Grosenbach