Wednesday, November 5, 2008

American Flag of 1813

An American Flag, with 15 stripes and 15 stars, that flew over Fort McHenry has been conserved at the Smithsonian Institution's labs since 1998 and is finally on display along with the reopening of the renovated National Museum of American History on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. It is huge!

Star-Spangled Banner Days You can see pictures of the original flag maker, the flag in a Smithsonian Museum's conservation lab, which gives you a sense of its enormous size, how it looks in the display case now and more. Click on the photo icon that says "Picture Gallery" to the right of the article. Here are a few paragraphs from the article about this Flag- worthwhile article,an historical account.

"To make the flag's stripes, she overlapped and stitched eight strips of red wool and alternated them with seven strips of undyed white wool. While the bunting was manufactured in 18-inch widths, the stripes in her design were each two feet wide, so she had to splice in an extra six inches all the way across. She did it so smoothly that the completed product would look like a finished whole—and not like the massive patchwork it was. A rectangle of deep blue, about 16 by 21 feet, formed the flag's canton, or upper left quarter. Sitting on the brewery floor, she stitched a scattering of five-pointed stars into the canton. Each one, fashioned from white cotton, was almost two feet across. Then she turned the flag over and snipped out blue material from the backs of the stars, tightly binding the edges; this made the stars visible from either side.

"My mother worked many nights until 12 o'clock to complete it in the given time," Caroline Pickersgill Purdy recalled years later. By mid-August, the work was done—a supersize version of the Stars and Stripes. Unlike the 13-star ensign first authorized by Congress on June 14, 1777, this one had 15 stars to go with the 15 stripes, acknowledging the Union's latest additions, Vermont and Kentucky."

"There was nothing special about it," says Scott S. Sheads, historian at Baltimore's Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, speaking of a time when a new nation was struggling for survival and groping toward a collective identity. That all changed in 1813, when one enormous flag, pieced together on the floor of a Baltimore brewery, was first hoisted over the federal garrison at Fort McHenry. In time the banner would take on larger meaning, set on a path to glory by a young lawyer named Francis Scott Key, passing into one family's private possession and emerging as a public treasure."

"On the most memorable of those occasions, the flag was displayed at Fort McHenry with George Washington's campaign tent and other patriotic memorabilia when Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette visited in October 1824. When Louisa Armistead died in 1861, she left the flag to her daughter, Georgiana Armistead Appleton, just as a new war broke out."

A patriotic quilt exhibit is currently at The Women's Museum in Dallas TX is on Judy Breneman's blog Among the Usual Days.

Mmore about patriotic quilts can be found at Patriotic Quilts through Time. It's been on my website quite awhile and many of you have probably read it already. That's the good thing about writting about antique quilts, the articles never really get old. :) In it I ask you to use the book by Safford and Bishop "America's Quilts and Coverlets" to see the quilts pictured in it that I discuss in the article and give page numbers to.


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