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July 4 trivia: Who sewed the star-spangled banner that inspired the song?

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It’s a celebration of the flag’s bicentennial, since it was made in the summer of 1813. You can donate toward the project’s cost on Kickstarter or come sew a stitch yourself during public stitching days in August.

“It is a work of public art in every sense of the word,” the Maryland Historical Society boasts.

Back in 1813, Pickersgill was Baltimore’s best-known flagmaker. This was a good career for a widow and single mother in a port city where ships needed flags and banners of all kinds.

That July, she received a big rush order. Maj. George Armistead, the new commander of Fort McHenry, wanted two flags. One was a relatively small flag of 17 by 25 feet, intended to fly in bad weather. But the second was a pure statement of nationalism: a giant flag of 30 by 42 feet that Armistead was sure the British could not miss.

Pickersgill needed backup for a project of this size. She enlisted her 13-year-old daughter, several nieces, and an indentured African-American servant in the effort. They labored after-hours in a brewery where they had room to lay out and stitch the flag’s elements.

The flag was largely made of imported British wool bunting, a loosely woven fabric that could wave in the wind. (Trade with Britain was banned at the time, and the origin of the flag’s fabric remains a mystery.)

The original banner had about 17 threads per inch weft, according to the Maryland Historical Society. That’s light. By comparison, a necktie of today has 240 threads per inch.

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