Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Recreating the Star Spangled Banner, my moment in history

Hello Friends,

My most recent local travel took me to the Maryland Historical Society and what a fun day it was!

I got lucky to be there during one of the two days the public could participate in the Stitching History Project. The Stitching History Project being run by the Maryland Historical Society is recreating the Star Spangled Banner flag flown at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore also known locally and celebrated as Defender's day. The public is being allowed to help in the making of the flag by participating in the stitching of the flag.

What is so important about the flag flown over Fort McHenry is the fact that it was the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key in 1814 to write the Star Spangled Banner poem which in 1931 became the National Anthem.

The Star Spangled Banner flag being recreated will be of the same size as the original, 30 feet wide by 42 feet long, using authentic materials and sewn using the same stitching techniques as the original 200 years ago. The flag will be made in 6 weeks, the same amount of time it took Mary Pickersgill and her 4 helpers in the summer of 1813.

Once the flag is finished, it will be flown at Fort McHenry in September 2013 during the Defender's day celebration and in 2014 it will be part of the Bicentennial year festivities of the writing of the national anthem poem it inspired. Eventually this recreated flag will become part of the Smithsonian lying next to the original flag at the American History Museum. I also heard that it might be part of the Macy's Thanksgiving parade?

When I arrived at the Maryland Historical Society, it was a very festive and patriotic day. I got to see these guys dressed in revolutionary uniforms playing military tunes of the time.

picture of men dressed in revolutionary military uniforms

Once I signed in, I entered a waiting area where a lady dressed in colonial attire talked about how the original flag was made. Here are some of the facts I learned from her:
  • The original flag was 30 feet tall, 42 feet wide.
  • Each stripe was 2 feet in height.
  • There are 15 stripes, 8 red, 7 white.
  • Each star (15 at the time) is in a 2 foot square, point-to-point.
  • The original material was wool.
  • The original flag is located at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington D.C.
Before we went into the stitching room where we would do our own stitching on the flag, we were given anti-bacterial wipes to thoroughly clean our hands. Then we signed the guest book and given a pin to place on a map indicating where we were from. Once in the stitching room, we waited to be placed with a professional sewer who would instruct us how to stitch in the Mary Pickersgill style.

picture showing my 2 stitches on the flag done as Mary Pickersgill did 200 years ago.
My two stitches

Vilma sawing stitches on the recreated Star Spangled flag
Vilma sewing her stitches on the recreated Star Spangled flag part of the Stitching History Project.

picture of Elaine, a professional sewer and Vilma while participating in the Stitching History Project
Vilma and Elaine while at the Stitching History Project.

Once I completed my historical stitches, I was able to tour the museum for free. The best part was being able to see the original manuscript of the writing of the Start Spangled Banner poem by Francis Scott Key which is encased and can only be seen when the underlying protective casing opens showing the original, this happens hourly. A copy of the original can be viewed at all times.

So while I am glad I did not live in the 1800's, I am glad that I was able to be part of this historical event and the next time I visit the American History Museum at the Smithsonian and see the recreated new Star Spangled Banner flag, I can tell my kids and grand kids I put 2 stitches in that flag, at the bottom, about 13 feet from the right.

Wow, I am still amazed at my luck.

 picture showing the sawing room with volunteers for the Stitching History Project.
The sawing room with volunteers for the Stitching History Project.

Wishing you all..........Happy Travels.

Discovering and Enjoying my neighborhood one event and one place at a time.

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