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A Star-Spangled Revolution

From the desk of
Burt Kummerow

Volume 2 Issue 7 
July 1, 2013

Dear Greetings!,

1844 was a revolutionary year. The steam railroad, only 17 years old, was moving folks at the unheard-of speed of 30 miles an hour. Photography, brand new in America, was creating a new reality for everyone. Another mind-blowing invention, the telegraph, was introduced, and, for the first time in human history, people suddenly could communicate over long distances. In January of the same year, a group of Baltimore gentlemen gathered to create the Maryland Historical Society.

As we approach the Society's 170th year, we are in the midst of another revolution. Building on that dot and dash technology, joining our ancestors together as never before, we are now communicating with the whole of humanity at lightning speed. Samuel F.B. Morse and his colleagues could not have imagined how far we would come in seven generations. Cyberspace, the same opens and shuts, zeros and ones that old-fashioned telegraphers would understand, has given us the Internet, websites, digitized images, Google, Yahoo, crowd sourcing, Facebook, Twitter and a whole new universe of connections. During the last year, the Maryland Historical Society has jumped on this train with new energy.

Star Spangled Banner Manuscript
"The Star Spangled Banner," manuscript by Francis Scott Key, 1814, Maryland Historical Society, 54315.
But our mission remains the same. We are still the Museum and Library of Maryland History, four centuries of human challenges and achievements that help define the American Experience. With the bicentennial of Maryland events that helped save a new nation, our Society is having its very own Star Spangled Year.

The story of two giant American icons, our National Anthem and the Flag that inspired it, belong to Maryland, Baltimore and the Old Line State's Historical Society. During the country's 2013 observance of Flag Day, the Society took Francis Scott Key's original Star Spangled manuscript to Frederick, Key's hometown. Patriotic citizens lined up for hours to spend a few moments with that simple document and those inspiring words. Other trips for the manuscript, a national Charter of Freedom, are being planned.

And now, on the 200th anniversary of the hot summer when Mary Pickersgill and her family painstakingly stitched together a giant Ft. McHenry garrison flag, we and over 150 volunteers will be carefully reproducing that important event.

From July 4th until August 22nd, we invite you to join us as we "Stitch History" and assemble 30' x 42' of proud affection for a state and a nation's dramatic history.

Join Us on July 4th at Fort McHenry!

Stitching History 

The Maryland Historical Society will be closed on Independence Day. (We will reopen on July 5 with FREE admission all day.)

Why are we closed? Because we will be at Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine. There we will launch - with great fanfare - our Stitching History: Recreating the Star Spangled Banner Project!

By Timothy Ervin
Photo by Tim Ervin
Beginning at 11:40 am, the Fort McHenry Fife and Drum Corps will lead a procession around the Fort carrying the flag materials to the dais and flag pole. The Star Spangled Banner materials will be unfurled, along with two other replica United States flags. The 'first stitch' will be added by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, with the event culminating with cannon fire and celebration!

After the first stitch, you are invited to witness our team of expert volunteer stitchers as they get underway recreating the flag. The volunteers will be located in the Fort McHenry Education Center between 12:30 pm and 4 pm.

The complete Public Event schedule at Fort McHenry on July 4th is as follows:
9:30 am: Flag Change in Star Fort
11 am: Poetry reading and public Recitation of the Declaration of Independence
11 am: Fife and Drum Corps march through Federal Hill, Baltimore
11:40 am: Parade from Visitor Center with fifes and drums
Noon: 'First Stitch' Ceremony of the Stitching History: Recreating the Star Spangled Banner
2 pm: Cannon Firing
3 pm: Public Recitation of the Declaration of Independence
4:30 pm: Flag Change

Throughout the day, there will be children's activities, men and women dressed in 1812 regalia interacting with the crowds, festive red, white and blue bunting decorating the Fort, and singing at the Historic Tavern Tent. We are looking forward to a wonderful day, and hope you will come share it with us!

For directions and parking information, visit Fort McHenry's website. There will be additional lots open that day, but plan to come early. We also encourage you to take the FREE Circulator (Banner Route) to the Fort. It runs from the Inner Harbor to Fort McHenry every 15 minutes between 6:30 am and 9 pm on July 4th. For more information, check the Circulator's official website.

Why Begin at Fort McHenry?

Bonaparte Painting
A view of the Bombardment of Fort McHenry, near Baltimore, by the British fleet, taken from the observatory, under the command of admirals Cochrane & Cockburn, on the morning of the 13th of Sepr. 1814., Bower, J. sc. , 1814, MdHS, H89
In 1813, Major George Armistead, Commander of Fort McHenry, commissioned Mary Pickersgill to create the original Star Spangled Banner. It flew over the Fort and remained intact during the Battle of Baltimore, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner poem. That's why, in commemoration of these historic events, we are launching the Star Spangled Banner Project at Fort McHenry on Independence Day.

The finished flag will be flown at Fort McHenry on Defender's Day in September, 2013. It will also be used for school programs and other public events in the Bicentennial year of the writing of the national anthem and the defense of the city of Baltimore.

In 2014, it will be transported to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, where the original Star-Spangled Banner is permanently on display. In addition, the original Star-Spangled Banner Manuscript, penned in Francis Scott Key's hand, will temporarily travel from the Maryland Historical Society to be united with the original Star-Spangled Banner for the first time.

The Story Behind The 'Stitching History' Project:

Volunteers Learning 19th Century Stitching Techniques
Our 150 experienced volunteers have been taking classes to learn 19th century techniques
The idea to recreate the Star Spangled Banner originated with The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House. We have worked hard to make this idea come to life. The project entails recreating the Star Spangled banner using authentic materials and the same stitching techniques that Mary Pickersgill used 200 years ago. And here's the kicker: we will finish the flag in the same timeframe  that Mary Pickersgill did - just 6 weeks!

As I mentioned, we have recruited more than 150 experienced quilters from around the country to construct the majority of the flag. After the July 4th kickoff, from July 5-August 22, the group will gather in MdHS' France Hall and, by working up to eight hours a day, they will assemble the flag in three sections, including: the long stripes, the short stripes, and the blue field. Descendants of Mary Pickersgill are also scheduled to participate.

Public Sewing Days: Add Your Stitch and Be a Part of History!

Red, White, and Blue Fabric
The red, white and blue fabric is ready!
It was made on antique looms by Family Heirloom Weavers
On Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 11 from noon until 3 pm, YOU are invited to come and add a stitch to the flag. During these days, we will host the Fort McHenry Fife and Drum Corps. Celebrity guests, actors in period costume, exhibits from our friends and partners, and great eats from mobile food vendors will be available.

This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So help us create an artifact that will become part of our nation's proud history!

To register for the public days, sign up here:

August 3rd signup  |  August 11th signup

I'm also pleased to announce that every participant in our Public Stitching days will receive an 1812 Bicentennial Passport. This free passport from the Baltimore National Heritage Area features over a dozen Baltimore-area historical sites. We have even designed a special, limited-edition Stitching History stamp complete with Mary Pickersgill's likeness to add to your collection.

'Kickstarting' our Kickstarter
Fundraising Campaign


As a reader of our History Alive newsletter, I want to give you a special 'first chance' opportunity to support our Stitching History project, before we roll it out to the general public.

Ever heard of Kickstarter? It's a new, online way to fund creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to public art projects have been funded through this program.

The funding happens through the direct support of people like you and me. Since 2009, more than 4.3 million people have pledged over $678 million, funding more than 44,000 creative projects. We are very proud to have our Stitching History Project accepted into the Kickstarter fundraising program.

Why Kickstarter?

We chose to launch this project on Kickstarter because are seeking new ways of funding support. We know our future depends on new, virtual ways of spreading word about our projects. New ventures, like Kickstarter, can make them happen. They are the future.

Our Fundraising Goal

Our Stitching History project is just beginning, but it has already received national media attention. NBC News and USAToday are running stories on July 4th about our project (so be sure to check them out!). We are receiving requests from historical sites around America to bring the completed flag 'on the road,' so that everyone can be a part of this historic event.

We are seeking a total of $10,000 in public contributions, to cover the cost of the fabric and sewing materials for our flag. Every single dollar contributed is needed to make this project come to life.

In return for your generous support, we have put together a fun array of thank you gifts, including:

  • Star Spangled Banner Pins

  • Handheld 15-Star Flags

  • Copies of the DVD, Anthem: The Story Behind the Star Spangled Banner

  • Signed copies of the award-winning book In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake

  • Special invitations to participate in the flag raising ceremony at Fort McHenry on Defender's Day, and more.
You can treasure these keepsakes as our gift to you, to thank you for helping us bring our Stitching History Project to life. Click here to learn more about our Kickstarter campaign, and how you can support it.

My sincerest thanks for your support!

A Visit to the Oldest Blacksmith Shop
in North America

Red, white and blue fabric? Check. Yards of sailing rope to hoist the flag? Check. A way to secure the flag to the rope? Well, that's where G. Krug and Sons come in.

Krug and Sons is located less than 2 blocks from Baltimore's Lexington Market. Every day, owner Peter Krug and his team of blacksmiths take turns in front of a timeworn anvil. Using a 2,500 degree forge, they create wrought iron masterpieces - one hammer swing at a time.

The business began in 1810 and at its height employed over 100 people. "At one point, [they]... could proudly boast that virtually every building in Baltimore contained something made in the shop, even if that something was only a nail," writes Eli Pousson of Baltimore Heritage.

Volunteers Learning 19th Century Stitching Techniques
Peter Krug and Patrick Cutter
examine The Smithsonian's report
We are enlisting their help to craft two grommets that will secure the recreated Star Spangled Banner to its rope. According to The Smithsonian's conservation report on the original Star Spangled Banner, these grommets were known 200 years ago as "iron thimbles."

Peter and his team will heat small, 5/8" metal rings to the burning point and weld them together. A small groove will next be added, for the rope to sit on.

We believe the grommets would have been made in the likeness of the fasteners used on ship's sails. "Back then, it was a maritime economy, and so everything was made to be put on a ship," Education Director Kristin Schenning said.

As you can see, no detail in our project is being overlooked! I can't wait for the Public Sewing Days, so you, too, can see our flag as it comes to life.

Other July Events:
Join us on July 13th for a Special,
Free Film Screening of: Glorious Betsy
featuring Live Musical Accompaniment

By David Belew, Development Coordinator
Glorious Betsy 

As a historical society, it's our duty to tell a story as accurately as possible. Our exhibition Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte & her Quest for an Imperial Legacy strives to convey Elizabeth and the worlds she traversed, whether in Baltimore or Europe, as they truly were.

However, accuracy has not always been a top priority for the many who have explored Elizabeth's life in books, plays, and films over the generations. The results of creative license are both entertaining and enlightening, perhaps telling us more about the creator and their era's ethos than about Elizabeth herself. Such is the case with the 1928 silent film Glorious Betsy, which we're thrilled to share with you on July 13th at 2:00PM at the Enoch Pratt Central Library's Wheeler Auditorium.

This is truly a rare occasion. Like many silent films of the era, all but a few copies of the film have been lost to time and those that remain have yet to be digitized. Through a generous loan from the Niles Silent Film Museum of Fremont California, we're able to show this interpretation of Elizabeth's story in its original format on 16mm film. The grain of the film and the whirr of the projector are their own form of time travel, bringing that lost sensory experience of the early American movie theater to the present.

Unfortunately, one aspect of the Glorious Betsy experience has truly vanished. This film was one of the first 'talkies', with brief bits of sound interspersed throughout the story. These sound clips existed on separate reels, known as "Vitaphone tracks", that are not known to have survived. In their place, we have arranged for talented pianist Chris Whittaker to play a live soundtrack for the film.

We hope to see you on the 13th to share this truly delightful film. Like many treatments of Elizabeth's life, Glorious Betsy's interpretation eschews Elizabeth's business savvy and grit to focus on her beauty, wit, and the romance that secured her fame. In this endeavor it truly shines. Lush set designs convey the bucolic beauty of the countryside and the opulence of high society, providing a fitting setting for the stunning Dolores Costello who stars as Elizabeth. Conrad Nagel plays a dashing Jerome Bonaparte. Make sure to see Woman of Two Worlds before seeing the film; comparing the actual story with Hollywood's romanticized interpretation is half the fun!

The Enoch Pratt Library is located at 400 Cathedral Street in Baltimore, MD. Parking is available at several nearby city garages. To register, visit our website or call 410-685-3750 ext 377.

Carouse in the Courtyard:
Sno-Balls, Beer and Cheer!

You're Invited
The Young Defenders of the Maryland Historical Society invite you to seize the spirit of summer and Carouse in the Courtyard during the WTMD First Thursday Concerts in the Park!

Join us at the Maryland Historical Society on Thursday, August 1 from 6:00-9:30 PM in the Monument Street Garden. Cool off with a traditional Baltimore summer favorite, the Sno-Ball, and do not worry we will not forget the marshmallow! There will also be plenty of beer and cheer to go around. Beer selections will be brought to you by Flying Dog Brewery.

Tickets are limited, advance purchase is encouraged; $15/new friends and $5/MdHS members.

Purchase your ticket today by visiting or calling 410.683.3750 x399.

See you then!

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And they can sign up!

Speaking of Trivia...

Trivia Time!

Congratulations to everyone who correctly answered last month's question!

Volunteers Learning 19th Century Stitching Techniques
Roderick Howard II portraying Civil War hero Sgt. Maj. Christian Fleetwood   
Approximately 18,000 African-American sailors fought for America during the War of 1812. Some, such as Charles Ball, fought alongside Commodore Joshua Barney in the Battle of Baltimore. These sailors were known as Colonial Marines or blackjacks.

I'd like to thank Roderick Howard II, who portrays Charles Ball in our 1812 Gallery, for submitting that excellent question. You can catch Roderick and all of the Maryland Historical Players as they perform this month on Saturday, July 6 and Saturday, July 20 every hour between 1:15 and 3:15 at The Maryland Historical Society. Sign up for the July 6 performances by clicking here. For the July 20 performances, click here.

Ready for this month's question?

Question: Widely regarded as one of the best writers of the 20th Century, his second cousin (three times removed) was Francis Scott Key. Name that man.

 Email us your answer, and you, too, could win a prize! Best of luck.

Until next month,

Burton Kummerow
President, The Maryland Historical Society
Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. The society's mission is to "collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland's diverse cultural heritage." The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled "Maryland Historical Magazine." The Society is located at 201 W. Monument Street and open to the public Wednesday-Saturday from 10 am-5 pm, and Sunday (museum only) 12 pm-5pm.
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