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: flaghouse.org/awards
Nominations will be accepted until 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 13, 2019.
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 flaghouse.org/scholar-award. Thank you to our partners and sponsors for their support of this event.
Arthur Perry Sewell, (1900-1946) and Elizabeth Murray Sewell, (1890 – 1977), were the first curators and stewards of the Flag House. Because Arthur had been blinded by a chemical attack 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 on as curator until April 1957 and oversaw the first initiatives to expand of 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 (1-3), installation of a steel beam support in the basement (4), reconfiguring of rooms to restore partition walls and doorways that had been removed from the first floor (5-7), brick restoration on all exterior facades (8-13) and removal of the steam heat and radiator system and plumbing in the kitchen and third floor attic (14-16).
#WomesnHistoryMonth – Anne Homer Martin was an instrumental donor, volunteer, and member of the Flag House and Baltimore Weaver’s Guild. The Weaver’s Guild completed the 1963-1964 Star-Spangled Banner Flag that was exhibited in the Maryland Pavilion during the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. She wove examples of the fabric on a loom constructed for this project in the Flag House and continued to give weaving demonstrations to school children in the attic into the late 1960s. Mrs. Martin is also the generous donor of the Prescott Bigelow Pewter Collection, part of the Flag House permanent collection since 1959.
After fleeing from Philadelphia in 1777 and the death of her husband, William Young, from camp fever at Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1778, Rebecca Young faced a considerable life decision. At age 39 with five children to raise her options were, either remarry or find a way to support the family financially on her own. Fortunately for Rebecca, her family was well connected to important personalities of the American Revolution and fledgling country. Perhaps the choice of what to do was made easier for Rebecca when her brother Col. Benjamin Flower writes to his sister offering to find her a home near his in Philadelphia where she can begin making supplies for military use. Benjamin Flower, only 29 years old, had been appointed commissary general of military stores by George Washington in 1777 and was responsible for keeping the Continental Army supplied with everything from musket balls to simple cotton shirts. The first time Rebecca’s name appears in military records she is listed in the Musket Ball Book on August 31, 1778, as having been paid for the production of 500 musket balls. This entry appears on the same page as the name of Elizabeth Ashburn (Betsy Ross). Rebecca Young is listed in military records from 1778 until 1788 having moved to Baltimore and completing a continental standard on July 14 of that year. Over the ten years that she provides military wares she is listed as having produced cartridges, musket balls, shirts, bedding, wires and brushes, drum cases, and hat linings, but most important among her work are the continental standards and garrison flags produced by Rebecca between 1781 and 1788. It is apparent that this was a lucrative part of the military supply trade and she launches an aggressive advertising campaign for her flags in the Pennsylvania Packet on May 26, 1781, and continues placing ads more than 30 times in two years. She is paid between £10 and £26 per flag. Flags were essential for all aspects of military operations and Rebecca Young seized the opportunity to turn her work into a what would become the Baltimore flag making business with her daughter Mary Young Pickersgill, the craftswoman responsible for the creation of the Star-Spangled Banner.
BALTIMORE, Maryland (March 20, 2019) – The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House has achieved accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, to governments, funders, outside agencies, and to the museum-going public.
Alliance Accreditation brings
national recognition to a museum for its commitment to excellence, accountability,
high professional standards and continued institutional improvement. Developed
and sustained by museum professionals for over 45 years, the Alliance’s museum
accreditation program is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance,
self-regulation and public accountability. It strengthens the museum profession
by promoting practices that enable leaders to make informed decisions, allocate
resources wisely, and remain financially and ethically accountable in order to
provide the best possible service to the public.
“On behalf of the
Flag House and its Governing Authority we would like to thank the American
Alliance of Museums for their continued dedication to core standards of museum
excellence,” said Executive Director Amanda Shores Davis. “In hindsight, when I
came on as a freshman director in 2014, with a very green board, accreditation
as a long-term goal was ambitious and maybe a little crazy, but I’m incredibly proud
of the work we’ve done to successfully rise to the challenge. Accreditation was
the end goal, but the process to get here is what will allow the Flag House to
continue its trajectory toward continued excellence, accessibility, and equitability.
The Flag House is a better museum with a clearer sense of purpose for the
Of the nation’s estimated 33,000 museums, over 1070 are
currently accredited. The Flag House is
one of only 23 museums accredited in
Maryland and only 4 museums accredited in Baltimore.
Accreditation is a very rigorous but highly rewarding
process that examines all aspects of a museum’s operations. To earn
accreditation a museum first must conduct a year of self-study, and then
undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. The Alliance’s Accreditation
Commission, an independent and autonomous body of museum professionals,
considers the self-study and visiting committee report to determine whether a
museum should receive accreditation.
“Accredited museums are a community of institutions that have
chosen to hold themselves publicly accountable to excellence,” said Laura L.
Lott, Alliance president and CEO. “Accreditation is clearly a significant
achievement, of which both the institutions and the communities they serve can
be extremely proud.”
American Alliance of Museums
The American Alliance
of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop
standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing
advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more
than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and
corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad
scope of the museum community. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.
#Grace Wisher was a free African American girl who was indentured to Mary Pickersgill for six years to learn house work and plain sewing. Grace, at age 13, was the same age as Mary’s daughter Caroline Pickersgill. During the summer of 1813, Grace would have been three years into her indenture and would certainly have been expected to take part in household work and business of flag making, including being present and active in the creation of the Star-Spangled Banner.
This summer, artist Grandmother Edna Lawrence crafted a quilt dedicated to Grace that received recognition from Mayor Catherine Pugh. This quilt along with 10 other examples of Grandmother Edna’s work remain on view in the Flag House’s temporary exhibit.
Hannah Young Wells Fearson, older sister of Mary Young Pickersgill, was born August 2, 1767, in Philadelphia to William and Rebecca Young. In 1783, Hannah marries shipbuilder George Wells, and the couple relocates to Baltimore in 1784 where George has inherited house and building plots from his father. Five years after their marriage, George Wells dies. Having poorly managed and invested his inheritance, he leaves Hannah deeply in debt, a hardship she would have to deal with for twenty years thereafter. Unlike her mother and sister, Hannah chooses to remarry and does not enter into the flag making trade. On May 28, 1791, Hannah marries Jesse Fearson a Revolutionary War sea captain and commander of the Buccaneer, a privateer ship with 12 crew and 18 guns. By September of 1807, the Young/Pickersgill flag making business in Baltimore was underway and Hannah and her husband Jesse move to Granby Street, one block east of the Flag House. Like her sister, Hannah becomes involved with the Impartial Female Humane Society. In 1828, when Mary is named as president of the Society, Hannah appears in meeting minutes as part of a committee to “make the next inquiries into the affairs of the Society.” She is also listed as heading a committee on March 11, 1829, that is to call a Mr. Norris to “demand the papers and any articles he may hold belonging to said society.” Hannah continues to appear in Impartial Female Humane Society minutes until about 1848. On March 7, 1853, Hannah Young Wells Fearson dies at age 86 in Baltimore.
Hannah Young Wells Fearson (in plaid) pictured with sister Mary Young Pickersgill (in black), about 1840.
Through Museums for All, those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits) can visit the Flag House and more than 300 museums throughout the United States for free or reduced admission simply by presenting their EBT card. Use the link to find a participating museum near you!
About Museums for All
Through Museums for All, those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits) can gain free or reduced admission to more than 300 museums throughout the United States simply by presenting their SNAP EBT (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefit Transfer) card. Find a participating museum near you or browse our full list of participating museums.
Museums for All is a national, branded access program that encourages individuals of all backgrounds to visit museums regularly and build lifelong museum habits. It is open to participation by any type of museum — including art, history, natural history/anthropology, and general museums, children’s museums, science centers, planetariums, nature centers, historic houses/sites, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and arboretums.
The cost of museum admission can be a barrier for many low-income families. Participating museums provide reduced admission, ranging from free to $3.00, to visitors presenting their EBT card. This reduced rate is available during all normal operating hours to up to four individuals per EBT card. With a year-round open door policy, Museums for All invites low-income visitors to feel welcome at cultural institutions.
Since the launch of the initiative in 2014/2015, Museums for All has served more than 1.5 million visitors nationwide at more than 300 museums of all varieties, representing 45+ states, districts, and territories. Museums for All is the only nationally coordinated financial accessibility program in the museum field, providing an easy-to-implement structure and the ability for participating museums to customize their implementation.
Museums for All is an initiative of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency based in Washington, DC. The initiative is administered by the Association of Children’s Museums through a cooperative agreement with IMLS.