Mary Pickersgill and the members of her household sewing the Star-Spangled Banner Flag.
Mary Pickersgill and the members of her household sewing the Star-Spangled Banner Flag.

NPS/Gerry Embleton

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Documents for the Classroom:  Maryland Pickersgill:  Maker of the Star-Spangled Banner

Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative program of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, the Baltimore City Public School System, and Baltimore County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

The State Archives of Maryland seriesTeaching American History in Maryland: Documents for the Classroomwas researched and developed by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, Maryland State Archives, Dr. M. Mercer Neale, Boys' Latin School, and Nancy Bramucci, Maryland State Archives, with the assistance of Lynne MacAdam, Maryland State Archives, and graduate students in the Public History Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).

Documents for the Classroommakes facsimiles of original documents available for use by teachers and students in elementary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities.

Access to materials linked within these document packets is intended for educational and research purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or holders of other rights (such as publicity and privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. The responsibility for making an independent legal assessment and independently securing any necessary rights rests with persons desiring to use particular items in the context of the intended use.

In 1813 the United States was embroiled in the midst of the War of 1812 against the British. Washington had just been burned and the British were turning their attention to Baltimore. Defenses at Ft McHenry were prepared and the commander, Major George Armistead felt that the only thing still needed for the fort.  He approached Mary about making the flag, whose dimensions would measure 30 feet hoist by 42 feet fly. 

Mary agreed to make the flag in time period of only six weeks. With help from her daughter and two nieces, Mary sewed the flag in her small Baltimore home. When the flag became too large, it was taken to Claggett's Brewery where it was laid out on the floor of the basement so that it could be completed.

On September 14, 1814 the flag was raised over Ft. McHenry after the Americans succeeded in defending the city against British invasion. Francis Scott Key, who was being held captive by the British aboard ship, saw the flag and penned the famous poem "The Defense of Ft McHenry", now known as the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Additional Resources

Other Document collections related to the War of 1812 include:

Bringing Down the House: The Burning of the White House in the War of 1812 
Compiled by: Nancy Bramucci Sheads, Maryland State Archives
Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland
Compiled by: Nancy Bramucci Sheads, Maryland State Archives

Francis Scott Key and the Star Spangled Banner
Compiled by: Nancy Bramucci Sheads, Maryland State Archives

Battle Of North Point, September 12, 1814
Compiled by: Michael Walsh, University of Maryland Baltimore County


History, U.S. First Ladies, U.S. Presidents, War of 1812
National/State Standards:
National History Standards:
Topic 2:  The History of the Students’ Own State or Region
STANDARD 3:  The people, events, problems, and ideas that created the history of their state
war of 1812, Battle of North Point, Battle of Balitmore, Fort McHenry, Star-Spangled Banner, Star-Spangled Banner Flag, General Robert Ross, Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Campaign

Last updated: February 26, 2015