First Day Spring – Gray Straw Wedding Bonnet

Celebrating the #firstdayofspring wishing we could show off in this gray straw bonnet with matching ribbon, dot lace, and delicately colored flower container. Made by O’Neill Millinery and Fancy Goods in #baltimore Worn by the donor, Mrs. Betty Houck, on her wedding day to Dr. William Fletcher Pentz, April 1888. 

Dr. Pentz was a member of the Maryland Legislature from 1898 until 1901. The Pentz-Trisler families were among the first donors to the Flag House’s collection and had strong familial ties to the defenders of Baltimore during the War of 1812. 

Trisler-Pentz Collection of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, FH1962.5.2, gift of Mrs. William F. Pentz 

O’Neill, Millinery & Fancy Goods

Founded in 1882 by Thomas O’Neill, O’Neill’s Department Store began as a dry goods supplier at Charles and Lexington Streets. The store and owner were well known for their specialty wares, and Thomas O’Neill’s presence at the front door at 8:30 each morning outfitted in spectacles, striped trousers, black dress coat, and his distinguished red mustache. After the department store survived the Great Fire of 1904, O’Neill purchased the entire block on the east side of Charles Street to Franklin Street, opening several other buildings. Thomas O’Neill died in 1919, bequeathing the store to its employees. The store closed in 1954 and was demolished in 1961 as part of the Charles Center urban renewal project. 

National Anthem Day – March 3

March 3 is #nationalanthemday Although Francis Scott Key’s famous poem was popular in Baltimore almost immediately following the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, it wasn’t until 1931 that it was adopted as the national anthem of the United States. Read on for a brief history of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” On September 13, 1814, British ships anchored a mile from Fort McHenry in support of soldiers advancing toward Baltimore from North Point. The 25-hour bombardment was unsuccessful, and on the dawn of September 14, Francis Scott Key, who had remained in British custody after negotiating the release of a prisoner of war, was poised to witness the Star-Spangled Banner flag being hoisted over the fort. Key finished his poem in a hotel after sailing into Baltimore after the battle. The poem, first titled “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” and later “The Star-Spangled Banner” is printed as a broadside and in newspapers, gaining quick popularity.

Shortly after the battle in 1814, Thomas Carr, a Baltimore music publisher, prints the first sheet music of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and offers it for sale at his store on Baltimore Street. Following a play at the Holliday Street Theatre on October 19, 1814, the first public performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is made by an actor named Mr. Harding.

During the Civil War, 1861-1865, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is performed with greater frequency, coinciding with increased civilian use of the national flag, whose stars symbolizing the states of the Union make a powerful allusion to the cause of reuniting the country.

In 1904, Italian composer Giacomo Puccini incorporated “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a musical theme in his opera Madam Butterfly to introduce the central character of U.S. naval officer Lieutenant Pinkerton.

Eight years later, in 1912, the first bill seeking to make “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem is submitted to Congress, but it dies in committee. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is to be played on official occasions.

It is not until 1931 that a bill making the Star-Spangled Banner the national anthem of the United States is passed. 

October Mini-ExhibitBack in Black

It is almost impossible to separate black clothing of the nineteenth century from the mourning customs of the Victorian period. However, black velvet, lace, and other trimmings could adorn the fancy dresses of the fashionable nineteenth-century woman. An 1802 Philadelphia publication on contemporary fashion describes a close-fitting bonnet of black velvet trimmed with black lace. A second is described as having a turned-up brim at the front, lined and trimmed with scarlet, and sporting a scarlet feather. Yet another pink silk bonnet is listed as being trimmed with black ribbon and adorned with black lace and feather. In February of 1802, a walking dress of white muslin, under a scarlet cloak trimmed all around with black lace and the matching bonnet is described in “Lady Brownlow’s Reminiscences.” When paired with pink, purple, scarlet, and blue fabrics, black was a familiar accent to walking outfits and evening attire of the early 1800s. By the winter of 1823, black satin shoes, black velvet hats, and black velvet dresses were all the rage and were often trimmed in black lace. Eleven years earlier, Napoleon sponsored the resurrection of Chantilly lace production in Normandy. At the height of its popularity during the 1830s, every fashionable lady would have had collars, veils, cuffs, and other clothing trimmed in black Chantilly lace. A revival of black Chantilly lace in the 1860s is exemplified by lace production’s role during 1862, International Exhibition. Visitors were treated to watching lace manufacturers producing an order for tunics, trimmings, pocket-handkerchief, fan, and parasol, all en suite for the sum of 150,000 francs.

In the last half of the nineteenth century, black clothing becomes synonymous with the customs and symbolism surrounding the etiquette of Victorian mourning. While black was, of course, required for deep mourning, rules of grieving also dictated the types of fabrics acceptable for this first stage of mourning. Dresses of bombazine, paramatta, delaine, barege, merino, and crape were considered appropriately somber for deep mourning. Bonnets were to be of plain black crape with a long crape veil, a shawl of plain black with no trimming or border were topped off with black crape collar, sleeves, black boots, and gloves. Black fabrics of the time also held invisible dangers. Black dyes, especially those used in the crape veils, could irritate the eyes, were harmful to breathe in, could affect the complexion, and leave staining on the skin. Ladies’ etiquette books didn’t only give instruction in the fashionable and refined art of mourning dress, they also gave practical advice for combating the effects of the dye. Even recipes for pastes to remove the staining caused by sweating in black mourning attire were given. In the 1872, “Ladies Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness: A Complete Handbook for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society,” by Florence Hartley, the procedure for removing skin staining required the purchase of 1/2 oz each of cream of tartar and oxalic acid, a poison, from the druggist’s who would combine and crush them together in a mortar. The lady would then dip a dampened towel into the paste and apply it to the skin, with instructions to immediately wash it off with soap and water. As the deep mourning stage ended, women could begin to substitute all-black attire with grays, deep purple, and lavenders and could begin to incorporate lace and other adornments like bows and short veils. An 1842 mourning outfit is described as a dress of black barege made with a deep hem at the bottom of the skirt and bodice cut three-quarters high and laced up the back. A ruche of the material finishes the neck of the corsage and the edge of the long tight sleeves. A pelerine of black lace cut low in the beck is worn around the shoulders and fastened with a black ribbon bow. An under-dress which shows through the barege is of grey. A drawn bonnet also of grey, trimmed round the face with black tulle, and small black flowers and long grey feather surrounds the crown and hangs down on the left side. Gloves of black lace and slippers of black completed this costume.

The Old Defenders


September 1814, following the burning of Washington three weeks earlier on August 24, the British army, under command of Major General Robert Ross, landed at North Point, just east of Baltimore, and began a land advance on the city. The King’s Army was met at North Point by the Baltimore City Third Brigade, Maryland State Militia, under the command of Brigadier General John Stricker. At the Battle of North Point, two American riflemen fired shots at General Ross, one fatally wounding the British commander. The death of General Ross allowed the Americans to slowly withdraw back toward Baltimore and fortifications that had been dug in at Potter’s Hill (now Patterson Park). During the unsuccessful land advance, the British Royal Navy had moved its fleet to within a mile of Fort McHenry. Over the course of 27 hours from September 13 to 14, the fleet bombarded the Fort with an estimated 1,500 – 1,800 Congreve rockets and mortar bombs. On the morning of September 14, the 30′ x 42′ Star-Spangled Banner was raised over the Fort, as it was every morning for reveille. Because of the uncertainty of how many men were stationed in the fort and surrounding fortifications, the British fleet withdrew, setting sail for New Orleans.

Commemorations of the successful defense of Baltimore and Old Defenders began shortly after the War of 1812 and centered on General Stricker’s victory at North Point. Throughout the mid-19th century, Marylanders celebrated with picnics on the battlefields around Baltimore. The traditional program while the Old Defenders survived was for Defenders’ Day programs that started with a rally and speeches at Baltimore’s Battle Monument, the landmark memorial in the former colonial-era courthouse square along North Calvert Street, between East Lexington and East Fayette Streets. Following the speeches, the militia units marched from the Battle Monument either out on Eastern Avenue then south on Old North Point Road to the battlefield at North Point or took a steamship excursion from the Inner Harbor of the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River downriver and up to Bear Creek. At North Point, the militia units participated in a sham battle and then marched to the former Loudenschlager’s Hill (now Hampstead Hill). Soon celebrations grew to involve parades, speeches, and the city-wide Star-Spangled Banner Centennial in 1914.

To view the digitized items in the Flag House’s Old Defenders Badge Collection visit the link below.
Digital Maryland – Star-Spangled Banner Flag House Badge Collection

2020 Mary Pickersgill Award for Women’s Leadership in Business Nominations are Open

Mary Pickersgill, the woman and Baltimore citizen who sewed the Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired our national anthem, was more than a patriot. She was a driven, creative, and successful businesswoman, a female sole proprietor of her flag making business, uncommon in 1813. She devoted her later life to charitable causes, becoming the president of the charitable Impartial Female Human Society in 1828. Under Mary’s direction the Society opened Baltimore’s first home for aged women and lead a successful campaign to raise wages for the city’s seamstresses. 

The Mary Pickersgill Award for Women’s Leadership in Business is given annually to a woman in the Baltimore metro area who follows in Mary’s footsteps. This individual is a successful businesswoman who has made significant contributions to her field. She is creative and innovative, inspiring others with her work. She is also a civic leader, demonstrating significant ties to the area through charitable work, mentoring, or community service.

To submit a nomination visit this year’s Pickersgill Award Nomination Form. To see some of the past winners of the Pickersgill Award follow the link:

Nominations will be accepted until 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 13, 2019. 

Mary Young Pickersgill, c. 1850.

92nd Flag Day Celebration

On Friday, June 14, 2019, the Flag House hosted the 92nd Flag Day celebration at the museum. We welcomed more than 150 visitors for the day and 25 individuals from 21 countries as they took the oath to become the newest American citizens. Congratulations to our 2019 Flag House Scholar, Anthony Bibbo, on his winning essay. To read more about the Flag House Scholar Award visit Thank you to our partners and sponsors for their support of this event.

Fort McHenry National Monument & Shrine
Society of the War of 1812 in Maryland
Maryland State Daughters of 1812
National Society of the Colonial Dames of America
Unites States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Baltimore Field Office
Citizens of Baltimore County