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New Baltimore Exhibit To Honor Star-Spangled Banner Flag Creator Mary Pickersgill

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Mary Pickersgill
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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—When you look at an American flag today, you can thank a woman from Baltimore.

As Mike Schuh reports, Maj. George Armistead paid for it, Francis Scott Key wrote about it, but Mary Pickersgill made what became known as The Star-Spangled Banner.

The British were about to attack Baltimore in 1812.

Ft. McHenry’s commander, Maj. Armistead, turned to a Baltimore seamstress to make a flag big enough for the British to see when they sailed up the harbor.

What Pickersgill created is big as a building.  In fact, behind that flag is a museum dedicated to the flag that was made in a house on the corner of Albemarle and Pratt streets.

And it’s there that Pickersgill will finally get her due in the form of an exhibit.

“It is the first exhibit in history to focus on the life of the creator of The Star-Spangled Banner,” said Annalise Montone, museum executive director.

The first ever.

“We’re been very excited to finally showcase some family objects,” said Amanda Davis, curator.

From thimbles to scraps from the flag, the exhibit tells the story of the woman whose work on the flag was, from then on, copied.

“At this time the flag design was not standardized so it was up to the maker how they wanted to, for instance, place the stars, and you see her doing there. In Mary’s flag, the stars are dancing,” Montone said.

“She is just a normal woman executing her craft the best way she can and becoming famous for it,” Davis said.

The widowed Pickersgill was unusual in that she owned a business. Coinciding with the exhibit will be a yearly award for businesswomen.

The first recipient is former businesswoman and current Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman.

“I was surprised and humbled by the experience, and I will admit that driving into Baltimore today was kind of an emotional experience for me. I grew up in East Baltimore not far from here so it feels like a full circle moment,” Neuman said.

The museum is open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday thru Saturday.

The exhibit opens to the public Wednesday, the 238th anniversary of the birth of Pickersgill.

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