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Mary Young Pickersgill
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    (February 12, 1776-October 4, 1857)
    Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Birth name was Mary Young
    Flag maker
    Commissioned by Major George Armistead to make an oversized flag (30 feet by 42 feet) to fly over Fort McHenry(1813)
    Sight of the flag after an unsuccessful bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British inspired Francis Scott Key to write ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ (1814)
    Flag donated by descendants of Armistead to the Smithsonian Institution (1912)
    It probably did not hurt her chances of landing the job of sewing the Star-Spangled Banner that her brother-in-law, Commodore Joshua Barney, was a member of the committee that commissioned the flag.
    Her flag had a now-odd-looking fifteen stripes.
    It also had fifteen stars, despite there being 18 states in the Union.
    Over the years, the Armistead family gave away pieces of the flag of souvenirs, resulting in the Star-Spangled Banner losing eight feet of length and one of its stars.
    The fifteen stripes and fifteen stars design was a legacy of the 1794 flag act that had added two stripes and stars to the original flag, representing the admission of Vermont and Tennessee; Congress did not get around to updating the American flag until 1818, when it adopted the still in use design of thirteen stripes for the original states and one star for each state in the Union.
    Only one of her four children survived to adulthood.
    Her flag-making business was successful enough for her to buy the house she had been renting (1820).
    The house was later designated a National Historic Landmark (1969).
    She served as president of Baltimore’s Impartial Female Humane Society (1828-51), and oversaw the building of a women’s retirement home.
    Michael Heyman, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution said, ‘I am often asked which of our more than 140 million objects is our greatest treasure, our most valued possession. Of all the questions asked of me, this is the easiest to answer: our greatest treasure is, of course, the Star-Spangled Banner.’

Credit: C. Fishel

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