2021 Flag House Scholar Award and Essay Contest: Runners Up

This year, the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House is pleased to recognize the runners up in for the 2021 Flag House Scholar Award. This year’s essay contest asked seniors to write a journal entry about their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a primary source for historians of the future.

The creative, exceptionally written, and sometimes emotionally moving journal entries below scored the highest of the 28 competitive essay submissions from 11 of Maryland’s 23 counties. If you haven’t already, check out the video of 2021 Scholar Award winner, Kaylee Kim.

Nimisha Seshadri | River Hill High School UCLA | Human Biology & Society

The initial two-week quarantine was supposed to end yesterday, and I thought we would be back in school today- I’m not mad about it though, I haven’t had homework to worry about! A stay-at-home order was just issued, the state is “no longer asking or suggesting that Marylanders stay home, [but] directing them to do so.” I’m not sure how long it will last, but I’m a little scared. Does this mean we can’t even take walks in the neighborhood? Masks are also pretty much sold out everywhere, so we’ve had to use my old Girl Scout bandanas and hair ties.
My screen time in the past month has gone up by 40%. I never thought I would be on TikTok or Netflix this much. All this extra time made me want to try something new, so I picked up baking! Well, not exactly, but I’ve made three types of microwavable mug cakes so far.
I should probably start studying for the SATs again, the next test date is April 20th- hopefully, COVID cases start going down by then.

It’s been almost a year since my first journal entry. I never in my life thought I would say this, but I badly want to go back to school- goodbye Prom, graduation, senior picnic, and crab fest. What was supposed to be four of the most exciting years of my life, was cut down to two and a half.
I’ll be attending a protest against the rise in racial hate crimes at the Columbia Lakefront this Wednesday. I never thought racism was so prevalent in my own community, but I’m glad awareness is increasing. Places I visit daily, like Kung Fu Tea, were targeted. When there are so many things happening in the outside world, my mind refuses to pay attention to my Calculus teacher on the tiny computer screen.
I’m supposed to get the first dose of the vaccine this Saturday, I remember last July thinking we wouldn’t even have a vaccine until 2022. I think change is coming 🙂

Julianna Bibbo | Mount de Sales Academy | Villanova University Honors Program

Hello, my dear friend, History.  Perhaps you informed us so long ago that we forgot.  Or, maybe we just did not listen when you told us how a pandemic can change life as we know it.  You gave us National Archives filled with examples; yet, somehow, most never considered the modern-day possibility–and then, it came.

History, you told us it could be like this.  Once the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, I did not enter a public place for two months.  It was three months before I saw a friend in person, but I could not hug her; I could not even see her face behind the mandatory masks.  To find some opportunity for interaction, I began working. Per federal orders, this job made me an “essential” employee–at age sixteen.  Approaching one-year of employment, I still have not seen my coworkers’ faces.  I am one of the lucky students whose school returned to primarily in-person learning after eleven months of staring at computer monitors in isolation.  Many students still wait in isolation.  Sadly, hospital Emergency Department records report that some have surrendered.

Isolation, loss of loved ones, and longing for the past replaced laughing and hope for the future.  Receiving cards from friends through the mail became the high point of many days, so much that I started my own organization, Cards2Care4Teens, to design and distribute cards to others who needed connection like I did.
Somehow, my dear friend, History, you knew what to do to help–-you educated and informed my other dear friend, Future.  Research and innovation led to vaccines in record times; I and others now await our vaccine cards we will carry like passports to hope.  Although cultural norms of handshakes and hugs temporarily have been replaced by elbow bumps and air hugs, we prepare for senior prom on a sports field.  We anticipate high school graduation in-person because we allowed History and Future to work together. 

My dear friends, History and Future, you taught us how to live through a pandemic.  I will share your stories; lives may depend on them.

Denby Frank | Montgomery Blair High School

December 18, 2020

Dear Jocelyn,

I was pleasantly surprised to receive your letter in the mail today. As you said, many Americans are mailing each other because of the proposed cuts and I absolutely agree with you that we should join them. I have been reading about the benefits of the postal service on EPI lately- I had never thought about how crucial guaranteed mail service is to remote areas! – and I am inspired to help keep USPS alive. Not to mention, living in the online world of Zoom and smartphones is exhausting and I am glad to escape the screens with some pen and paper. It seems all of my friends have taken a step back these days and adopted projects like baking sourdough bread, crocheting with plastic bags to raise awareness for climate change, and learning new skills like painting from Bob Ross. I’m not a painter myself, but Ross’s calm wisdom is certainly welcome during quarantine. It is a fascinating trend that when we were forced to rely on technology for everything from school to work to fun that we returned to using our hands to bring us peace. And inner peace is something we could really use right now. I cannot forget George Floyd or Breonna Taylor and keep thinking of all the other injustice we’ll never even hear about. I want to march in D.C., but after reading in The Guardian about the 500+ instances of police tear-gassing protestors, my parents won’t let me. I know it seems like the hardships will never end, but I’m looking on the bright side. Although you are stuck at home because your sister is immunocompromised at least you are keeping her safe; although protests are scary at least BLM is speaking out for what’s right; and although online school with our families in the house seems like the nightmare that won’t end, at least we still have an education and we know our loved ones are still here. I am humbled that these things are a privilege.

We’ll beat this virus soon! Your loving cousin,


This student asked to remain anonymous.

One way I chronicled time during the monotonous year of 2020 was through the evolution of my masks. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when we as a country were unaware of the gravity of the virus, masks were only being worn by healthcare workers. My mom works in a hospital, so the only masks I saw were those she discarded in our garage trash can when she returned from work. By April, we realized our country was in it for the long haul and everyone needed to wear masks to protect themselves. Because surgical masks were sold out, and no companies had begun selling masks to the public yet, I returned to my Girl Scout roots and retrieved our sewing machine. My mom and I made fabric masks for everyone in our family. Those became our necessary, but also fashionable, accessories. As 2020 progressed, so did mask accessibility. By the summertime, it also became clear that COVID-19 was not the only threat to the lives of American citizens. I proudly wore my “Justice is Love Out Loud” mask in support of the fight against racism. As the intensity of the summertime closed, a silver lining appeared in the form of a mask modeling photoshoot a friend had recruited me to do. As a fan of the strong female characters in the American classic, Little Women, I was excited to don a mask with a quote by author, Louisa May Alcott. By the start of my senior year, we had been away from the school’s campus for six months. School was 100% virtual. Eventually, administration allowed small groups of students to visit campus and socialize. This gift of returning to school came along with a green and gold mask embossed with the school’s emblem. Now that we have in-person instruction several days a week, I continue to wear it to school. For me, it symbolizes positive change and optimism for the future of our country. I am currently on the waitlist for the COVID-19 vaccine and cannot wait for the day I can officially archive my masks.

Preservation of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House – National Preservation Month

Efforts to preserve and restore the historic fabric of the Flag House began during the 1914 Star-Spangled Banner Centennial Celebration when chairpersons Arthur and Ruthella Bibbins began fundraising to purchase the open the house as a historic shrine. By 1927, the historic Flag House had been purchased with the assistance of Baltimore City, opening as a public museum in 1928. The Flag House trustees hired Arthur Perry Sewell (1900-1946) and Elizabeth Murray Sewell (1890 – 1977) as the first curators and stewards of the Flag House. Because a chemical attack had blinded Arthur during World War I, Elizabeth conducted all correspondence and Flag House operations alongside her husband and on his behalf. The couple resided in a third-floor apartment in the Flag House’s attic as late as 1940. Together they were responsible for the initial preservation of the Flag House, restoring it to its approximate 1813 appearance, using Works Project Administration workers, and even continuing preservation work during World War II. After Arthur’s sudden death in October of 1946, Elizabeth continued as curator until April 1957. She oversaw the first initiatives to expand the museum’s footprint to include the first museum and office building (1950). In 1955, the Flag House underwent a major restoration project to restore the exterior Pratt Street facade to its approximate 1793 appearance. This phase of preservation saw the removal of the storefront window installation of a steel beam support in the basement, reconfiguring of rooms to restore partition walls and doorways removed from the first floor, brick restoration on all exterior facades, and removal of the steam heat and radiator system and plumbing in the kitchen and third-floor attic.

The nails, glass, wood, and plaster below were collected during the various preservation efforts of the historic Flag House and the archeological survey conducted by the Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology in 1998 to uncover the foundations of the nineteenth-century privy and beehive oven located directly behind the north wall of the Flag House’s kitchen.

For more #NationalPreservationMonth stories follow the National Trust for Historic Preservation @SavingPlaces, #ThisPlaceMatters & #TelltheFullAmericanStory.

Spring Comes to Baltimore

Highlights from the Flag House’s Collection of 19th-Century Women’s Fashion

When spring comes, women being to exercise their minds as to what they are to wear to be in fashion and show off their charms. Everyone may wear garments of any period or non provided they have big sleeves and revers or frills on their bodices.”

Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century, C. Willett Cunnington

As the weather warms and the colors of nature spring forth from the ground, a change in women’s dress was undertaken with much enthusiasm. Flimsy dresses in a “modified empire” style made of silk foulard, jabots of lace, and satin ribbons of heliotrope, grey, art bronze, peacock blue, grey, shards of orange, jonquil, and dull green wear taken from wardrobes to replace the velvet and wool frocks of the darker months. Some of the favorite color combinations of the women of the 1880s were browns and greens, pink with bright yellow, salmon and ruby, and cardinal and dark blue, appropriate to the feminine attitude of the day.

In the spring of 1888, the newly married Mrs. William Fletcher Pentz likely paired her custom wedding bonnet with a fine dress of grey spring-time silk adorned with touches of pinks and greens. While white was the highest fashion for wedding gowns after the 1840 nuptials of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, it was not required. Brides could still choose to wear their finest dress in a color of their choosing so that it could be worn again. Victorian etiquette did dictate that high necks and long sleeves were still the standards for daytime weddings.

By 1900, the Victorian’s hold on social etiquette of dress began to loosen. The use of gold kid for the custom evening slippers on exhibit is unusual for their date of 1900, as it was not until the 1920s that metallic leathers became common for women’s evening shoes. Objects such as this challenge our conventional view of history, and it is hard to posit for what occasion such extraordinary shoes would have been worn.

Wedding Bonnet
O’Neill Millinery and Fancy Goods, 1888
Baltimore, Maryland

This gray straw bonnet with matching ribbon, dot lace, and delicately colored flower container was 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 Baltimore’s defenders 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. 

Evening Slippers
c. 1900
Baltimore, Maryland
Pair of gold kid leather, evening slippers custom made and gently worn. Feature braided bows at the foot opening and a slight heel flared at the base.
Wheeler Pinchbeck Collection of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, FH1963.2.2, Gift of Mrs. Frances Sevier

Rose Point Lace
c. 1850
Wheeler Pinchbeck Collection of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House
FH1962.7.4, Gift of Mrs. Frances Sevier
Jabots were used to fill in the deep V necklines of women’s dress bodices.

Anne Catherine Green: Printer of Colonial Maryland Currency

Anne Catherine Green, by Charles Wilson Peale, 1769

Happy #MarylandDay and #WomensHistoryMonth: Born Anne Hoof in the Netherlands around 1720, Anne Catherine Green was one of America’s first female printers and publishers. On April 25, 1738, Anne married Jonas Green at Christ’s Church in Philadelphia, and the couple relocated to Annapolis later that year. By 1745, after adding a print shop to their rented home in Annapolis, the Greens revive the dormant Maryland Gazette newspaper, one of the first of its kind in America and the primary source of news for Maryland colonists. The Maryland Gazette was critical of colonial rule, especially of the 1765 Stamp Act that directly taxed the paper. Infuriated by the direct taxing of his business, Jonas Green publishes the headline, “The Maryland Gazette Expiring: in Uncertain Hopes of Resurrection to Life Again,” printing skull and crossbones where the tax stamp should have appeared. April 11, 1767, Jonas Green dies, leaving Anne with serious financial debts. On April 16, Anne announces her husband’s death and her intentions to continue operating the printing business and publishing the Maryland Gazette. In only a few short years, Anne was able to buy the printing business and the house at 124 Charles Street in Annapolis. Charles Wilson Peale paints Anne Green’s portrait in 1769; she holds a paper with the words, “Annapolis printer to…” a nod to her contract with the Maryland General Assembly. Assisted by her son William until his death in August 1770, and after that by her son Frederick, Anne maintained the business with great success. The newspaper masthead read Anne Catherine Green & Son. The almanacs, pamphlets, and books issued from her press were typographically distinguished examples of her craft. Anne Catherine Green was a sympathetic supporter of the Revolution and died (March 30, 1775) a year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In her obituary, her son wrote: “She was of a mild and benevolent disposition, and for Conjugal Affection, and Parental Tenderness, an Example to her Sex.” In 1984, Anne Green was inducted into the Maryland Delaware D.C. Press Association’s Newspaper Hall of Fame.

Anne Catherine Green printed these two pieces of colonial Maryland currency from her Annapolis printing business on April 10, 1774. Collection of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, MU1937.9.1 & 2.

You can read more about Anne Catherine Green by visiting the

#MarylandWomensHistory #MarylandWomensHallofFame #RevolutionaryWomen

The Flag House Mourns Loss of Long-Time Volunteer, Raymond Kirkland

The Flag House is saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Raymond Kirkland, our dear friend and long-time volunteer who maintained the Flag House Rose Garden. It is fitting that today’s Facebook memories are of these beautiful roses Raymond grew in 2016. In 2002, after the original rose garden was removed during the Hofmeister Building construction, he stepped in to purchase, plant, and maintain the rose garden with 15 patriotically named rose plants, his favorite being Bronze Star. In 2005, he helped to develop and hybridize the Mary Pickersgill Rose. Raymond was a member of the Maryland Rose Society and former Baltimore City Public School teacher.

Opening of the Impartial Female Humane Society’s Aged Women’s Home

“This handsome, spacious edifice, adjoining Franklin Square, recently completed through the exertions of our charitable citizens, being in readiness for the reception of the deserving class for whom it is intended, was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies this morning between the hours of 11 and 12 o’clock.” – “The Aged Women’s Home,” Republican Daily Argus, October 28, 1851

By 1851, Mary Pickersgill had served for twenty-three years as president of the Impartial Female Humane Society, successfully growing the organization into one of Baltimore’s largest charities.

Opened at Lexington Street and Franklin Square, the Aged Women’s Home was the product of the hard work and dedication of the Lady Managers of the Impartial Female Humane Society to educating and caring for Baltimore’s impoverished and widowed women citizens. The Aged Women’s Home was the first building erected at Franklin Square, and to its five new residents, the location would have seemed like an escape to the countryside. Designed by architect Thomas Dixon, in the Gothic Tudor style and constructed at the cost of $17,206.62, the grandness of the building was thought to inspire and uplift the residents out of poverty. The Home had all the comforts that could be offered in 1851, a modern kitchen, infirmary, and each resident had her own chamber on the second floor and opened to a view of the entrance hall, a rocking chair was placed outside each door. Strict rules for admission required residents to be at least 60 years old with no husband or children, two responsible persons to approach for the applicant’s character, a $100 admission fee, and could provide for herself a “good” dress for summer and one for winter. Following the addition of a men’s facility in 1865, the Aged Women and Men’s Homes stood at Lexington and Franklin square until 1959 when the residents were moved to Towson. The homes were renamed the Pickersgill Retirement Community in honor of Mary Pickersgill.

Images taken from

Pilling, Ron and Pat. Pickersgill Retirement Community: Two Centuries of Service to Baltimore 1802-2002. Towson, Maryland: Pickersgill Retirement Community, 2002.

A National Historic Landmark in Baltimore

Today, Monday, October 19, marks the 50th anniversary of the Flag House’s dedication as a National Historic Landmark. October 19, 1970, trustees, staff, and honored guests of the Flag House host a dedication ceremony, marking the occasion by installing the landmark plaque.


Mr. Jean Hofmeister, President of the Board of Directors and Mrs. Mary Paulding Martin, Director of the Flag House.

Mrs. Thomas D’Alesandro III and Mrs. Barbara Oberfeld Mandel

SSB Flag House National Historic Landmark Plaque (1970)

Mr. Jean Hofmeister, President of the Board of Directors

Ceremony Program, National Historic Landmark Designation, October 19, 1970

Congratulations to Brianna Billups, founder of Fully Grown, LLC and winner of the Flag House’s 2020 Mary Pickersgill Award for Women’s Leadership in Business

The Flag House is proud to announce the 2020 honoree of the Mary Pickersgill Award for Women’s Leadership in Business, Brianna Billups, founder of Fully Grown, LLC.

Brianna Billups is an entrepreneur with a passion for bridging the gap between her community and the food they eat. She is a hospitality and culinary arts degree graduate of Anne Arundel Community College and received a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Baltimore. Brianna’s love for food began at an early age when she committed herself to a career as a chef. While attending college, Brianna learned the meaning of a “food desert,” realizing then that she had lived in one her entire life. The impact of learning about food deserts was the catalyst for the founding of her first business, Fully Grown LLC. Fully Grown is dedicated to teaching inner-city students about healthy eating habits and urban agriculture practices in partnership with a local nonprofit, It Takes a Village Inc.
Fully Grown also provides fruit snacks and meal prep services using all-natural
ingredients and 100% compostable packaging. Brianna is a former member of the University of Baltimore’s Entrepreneur Fellow Program and was the winner of the first Better Business Bureau Spark Award. Since the launch of Fully Grown, Brianna pitched and won a total of $10,000 in grant money for Fully Grown’s efforts. In 2020, Fully Grown will become a youth works site for students interested in culinary arts.

Congratulations to Reuben Williams, winner of the 2020 Flag House Scholar Award

Congratulations to our 2020 Flag House Scholar, Reuben Williams! Due to the cancellation of the Flag Day Celebration during the COVID-19 pandemic, Reuben fulfilled his obligation to read his essay in the recording below. Please join us in congratulating Reuben!

A bit about our winner:

Reuben Williams, is a home-educated high school senior matriculating to Southeastern University, in central Florida, as an honors student. Reuben intends to major in language, culture, and trade, fostering his deep-seated passion for other cultures.

Outside of his studies and job as a manager at Chick-fil-a, Reuben dedicates time to choir, teaching free English second language classes, and volunteers at various local charities and organizations including Christian Shelter and the Village of Hope. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Reuben helped give back to his community by volunteering at a food bank, sorting non-perishable items for distribution.

Throughout high school, Reuben maintained a record of academic excellence and holds one silver and three gold medals from the National Latin Exam, which he has taken annually since 7th grade. He also studies both Team Policy and Lincoln-Douglas style of debate. Reuben says, “most importantly, I have learned to appreciate learning as an opportunity to better myself, and take every chance to enrich my understanding of the world I live in.”

2020 Question:

Museums and historic houses have traditionally told the stories of the well-known history-makers such as George Washington’s Mt. Vernon or famous artists exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, museums and historic houses are increasingly developing research and exhibits that champion underrepresented groups. The historically significant actions of the working class, minorities, immigrants, and enslaved persons previously overlooked by mainstream narratives in American history are finally being shared. This is true of Mary Pickersgill and her household of craftswomen. At the Flag House, we work to preserve Mary’s legacy as a woman ahead of her time, business owner and advocate for the women of Baltimore, and as the maker of the Star-Spangled Banner. Although Mary and her team created the flag that inspired the national anthem, her story is frequently overshadowed by that of Francis Scott Key and the Battle of Baltimore.

The eighth Flag House Scholar Award will celebrate the historical contributions of unsung heroes from the past and present. Do you know of an unsung history-maker in your community? Is there an organization in your community working to keep the legacy of a historically significant, but often overlooked, individual alive and relevant? Identify a person living or from the past whose professional work, activism, or personal story has made a significant impact on you or your community. Describe why their story is unique and explain how they have changed the course of history.

Reuben’s Essay :

The day of war is the day of the hero when men and women alike rise up to defend the things they hold dear. One such hero is Charles Ball, an African American man from Maryland. Charles Ball was born a slave in Calvert County, Maryland, in 1781. For three generations his entire family was held in slavery. Eventually, Charles served in the War of 1812, the war that finalized American Independence, but history has neglected him. In light of his service, he deserves to be remembered for defending his homeland. Separated from his mother at a young age, Charles knew hardship well, yet he persevered and harbored no bitterness towards America and its inhabitants. In 1800 his master hired him out to the Navy for two years. In his autobiography, Charles writes enthusiastically about the comradery he experienced in the U.S. Navy. However, this hiatus from slavery was not destined to last, and he was again sold into slavery, this time in the deep south. After years of anguish and separation from his wife and children, Charles finally escaped and returned to Maryland in time for the War of 1812. In 1813, he enlisted again in the U.S. Navy. The significance of his choice cannot be overstated. The British Navy was offering guaranteed freedom to any slave who joined England’s cause. Charles, even knowing he could be forced back into slavery in America, still chose to fight for his country, in order to defend freedom he could not fully enjoy. Furthermore, Charles spent spare time trying to persuade his fellow slaves not to side with the British, but rather to defend America. After the war, Charles made his final escape from slavery to Pennsylvania, where he lived the rest of his days. Men and women like Charles Ball give everything for their nation, and they deserve to be remembered. I, with all Americans, owe Charles Ball and other heroes of liberty, thanks for the freedoms we enjoy. The true hero, like Charles, is the one who gives, even when he can expect nothing in return.

Maryland Archaeology Month – Buried Treasure of the Flag House: Immigration and Business in Jonestown & 2001 Survey

The Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology (BCUA) expected to find a high concentration of cultural material at the site of the beehive oven foundation and previously undisturbed privy, and indeed they did with over 15,000 items being uncovered.

The BCUA team identified at least five buried yard surfaces in the survey area. They dated to 1928 – 1953, with objects associated with the occupation of the Flag House by the Association, 1875 -1928, with objects related to various tenants & businesses, and three areas where artifacts dated from the prehistoric era through the mid-19th century. The yard surfaces that included the oven foundation and privy held nearly 8,000, including those items identified as being from the period of Mary Pickersgill’s occupation. The earliest features indicate that the beehive oven was constructed after 1799 but before 1807. No trace of the shed that first appeared in the 1894 drawing was uncovered.

Artifacts associated with the yard surface dating to 1928 – 1953 and the Flag House Association’s occupation of the Flag House yielded 2,994 artifacts, mostly architectural.

Digging foundation of the Maryland House, c. 1950.
Architectural artifacts: wrought nail, cut nail, wire nail, glass, mortar, slate.

The privy feature sourced artifacts associated with occupation by various tenants and businesses between 1875 -1928, 6,076 artifacts, to be exact. The privy was built about the same time as the house – c. 1792/1793 and was likely used until about 1910. Around 1909, homes were connected to public sewers with large portions of the city connected by 1914. During this time, the house was used as a dual dwelling and retail space

Flag House, 1907

Immigration to Baltimore increases beginning around 1878. The influx of Eastern European Jews and Italian immigrants is represented in shops and occupants of the Flag House. Cobbler Moritz Zimmerman was among the first to live and work in the Flag House. The Zaborovsky family, immigrants of Poland, occupied the living quarters on the second floor. Italian immigrant and last resident of the Flag House, Placido Milio operated a steamship ticket office, bank of Naples, and freight agency with Adams Express Company from 1910 to 1927.

The Flag House as it appeared c. 1920

The 1875 -1928 yard feature yielded numerous objects associated with occupation by various tenants and businesses like these small bottles – evidence of the household supplies once kept by the general store and pharmacy that operated from the first floor of the Flag House. 

Green glaze, promotional penny bank in the shape of a tankard, C.D. Kenny Co. – Founded in Baltimore in 1872, opened a coffee, tea, and sugar store at Lexington and Greene Streets, later expanding to more retail stores in the region eventually closing the retail businesses by 1934 and moving to wholesale. This bank probably dates to the early 1900s. C.D. Kenny also happened to manufacture commemorative souvenirs for the 1914 Star-Spangled Banner Centennial.

Adults and businesses were not the only ones to occupy the Flag House or the surrounding tenements and rowhomes. Numerous toys and artifacts indicative of the lives of 20th-century children were found.

The 2001 Test Pits – Construction of the Hofmeister Building

The 2001 test pit survey sought to uncover any features and cultural material associated with the block of homes and businesses located behind the Flag House from Granby Street south to the Flag House and their yards and footprints that ran from Albemarle Street west to Slemmers Alley. Ground disturbance related to additions added the buildings located at 110, 112, 114, and 116 Albemarle Street between 1890 and 1901, had a significant effect on the study area.

Only 444 artifacts were uncovered from 9 features that included structural features, two brick-lined privies, one wooden lined privy, brick walls, and one stone wall.

Looking south on Albemarle Street toward Flag House, 1940’s

The detail of the 1890 Sanborn Map of Baltimore shows the Flag House outlined in red and the site of the 2001 archaeology survey. Feature I contained two brick-lined privies that first appear on the 1890 Sanborn map and yielded 222 of the 444 artifacts.

Flag House, rearview of Albemarle Street looking northeast across Pratt Street, about 1945.

The majority of artifacts contained in the test pits were household items and dietary remains in the backyards and privies associated with the dwellings within 110 to 118 Albemarle Street. Feature III was the site of a wood-lined privy that did not appear on any maps and had a dense concentration of artifacts including, architectural, faunal, kitchen, and toys.

It is unclear when these privies were taken out of use – features I and III were not filled until sometime in the first quarter of the 20th century, and feature II only had construction debris like ash, mortar, brick, and window glass. Based on the 1890 map, features I and III (the two brick-lined privies and wooden lined privy) appear to be associated with 112 and 114 Albemarle Street.

There was no privy identified for 110 Albemarle. It is likely under the modern sidewalk or masonry fence. Prehistoric artifacts were likely transported to the area via fill.

Peach pits and grape seeds
Personal Artifacts
1. Indian head penny, 1868
2. Indian head penny, 1900
3. tobacco pipe bowl
4. tobacco pipe stem
5. 1919 penny
6. 1943 nickel
7. Bakelite handle
8. 1868 Indian head penny detail
9. Lincoln head penny, 1919 detail front and back

What questions did the findings of both surveys answer? How does the Flag House answer existing questions and mysteries about the life of Mary Pickersgill and the women who lived in the Flag House and worked alongside her? How do these findings shape the ways in which the Flag House interprets and shares the stories of the diverse lives of its occupants?

Objects that belonged to Mary in the Flag House Collection and artifacts uncovered during archaeology seem to indicate that Mary was a lady of refined taste, despite her socio-economic role as a widow who never remarried. All speak to Mary’s position in the culture of her time and indicate a genteel middle-class station in society. The lack of tobacco pipe stems and bowls, also speaks to the household being mostly female for more than a decade (1807-1818).

As with objects that date to Mary Pickersgill’s occupation of the Flag House, artifacts from both surveys informed the ways in which we interpret the Flag House as part of the diversity brought to Jonestown by immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For much of the Flag House’s history, tours and interpretation, of course, focused on the birth of Star-Spangled Banner. However, the role the house played as a community resource is closely tied with the mission of the Museum today.

There was a wealth of artifacts related to the Milio family, which allow us to interpret themes in Maryland history connected to the social, educational, cultural, and economic experiences of Italian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

What’s next for the Flag House and it’s once buried treasure?

Developing hands-on programming related to the artifacts gave us the opportunity to capitalize on our educational collection and connect more people with the story of Mary Pickersgill and of the Flag House. Programs teach students to handle and research primary sources and replica artifacts to experience life in a time far different from their own.

We continue to ask questions that we hope can be answered through researching these artifacts. As noted in the 1998 survey report, the faunal remains found in the beehive oven foundation need further analysis and could reveal a great deal about the diets of generations of Flag House occupants.

In 2020 and 2021, the Flag House will undergo a reimagining of its interpretive plan to include more about the immigrant experience, women’s history, and the history of enslaved persons in urban households, as well as, Mary’s free African American apprentice Grace Wisher.

The Museum will increase public and research access to its collection of artifacts through an ongoing digitization project.

By 2020, the Flag House will complete a third archaeological survey of a high potential area and possible privy beneath the brick walkway that is currently obstructed by the wheelchair ramp for the Maryland House building. This survey will be part of the restoration of the 1930s era brick and iron wall along Albemarle Street. Any cultural material found during this survey will join the Flag House Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology collection of artifacts and be used to conduct further research about the diverse individuals who occupied the Flag House.

This series has been adapted from a presentation developed for the Flag House by Executive Director Amanda Shores Davis and given to the Friends of Clifton Mansion, September 2019.