Born in Philadelphia in 1776, Mary Young married John Pickersgill in 1795. After her husband’s death, she settled in Baltimore and took up the profession of her mother, Rebecca Young, who had sewn flags and standards for the Continental Army, the Pennsylvania Navy, and the First United States Regiment. Working from her home, Mary designed and sewed signals and flags for merchant ships and for U.S. Navy and U.S. Army ships and forts.
In the summer of 1813, Fort McHenry’s commander Major George Armistead hired Mary Pickersgill to make two flags - a large garrison flag and a smaller storm flag. The larger flag, which would become known as the “star-spangled banner” measured 30' x 42'.
During six weeks in July and August 1813, Mary, her daughter Caroline, and their assistants, hand-stitched sections of the flags. To assemble the pieces for the larger flag, the women laid them out across the floor of Clagett’s Brewery at Lombard and Granby Streets in east Baltimore. The completed flag required 400 yards of woolen bunting and more than a million stitches. Each of its 15 stripes measured two feet wide; its 15 stars were two feet across.
In September 1814, the English attacked Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. When the two-day bombardment was over, Francis Scott Key saw the flag flying over the fort and wrote the words that would become the United States’ national anthem.
After establishing herself professionally, Mary turned her attention to philanthropy. As President of the Impartial Female Humane Society, Pickersgill helped impoverished women find jobs, sent their children to school, and contributed money for homes for the elderly. Today, the society she aided is called the Pickersgill Retirement Community.
Mary Pickersgill died in 1857 and was buried in the Loudon Park Cemetery in Baltimore.
Excerpt from Wagner, Pamela. “Maryland Online Encyclopedia.” http://www.mdoe.org/pickersgill.html.
American Museum of American History
Fort McHenry National Monument
Maryland Historical Society
Star-Spangled Banner Flag House
Mary Pickersgill embodies the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission's theme of Inspiration: Maryland is a special American place that excels in inspiring invention and creativity. Learn more about the Commission and its mission, goals, and themes.