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A Stitch in Time: Replicating the Star-Spangled Banner 1964-2013

Recently while processing the Hutzler Photograph Collection,* the library staff came across a familiar scene: patriotic stitchers sewing an immense American flag.

PP5 Women making replica of Star-Spangled Banner for New York Wo

THEN: Flag seamstresses circa 1964. PP5 Women making replica of Star-Spangled Banner for New York World’s Fair, Box 2, MdHS.

NOW: Star-Spangled Banner Project, July 2013, MdHS.

NOW: Flag seamstresses circa today. Star-Spangled Banner Project, July 2013.

For the past few weeks, the MdHS campus has been teaming with dedicated volunteers working diligently on the Star-Spangled Banner Project. The project seeks to recreate Mary Pickersgill’s efforts to sew the 30 x 42 foot flag for Fort McHenry in a mere six weeks–all by hand. The replica will be flown at Fort McHenry during the Defenders Day celebration before visiting various locations around the state.

Little did we in the library realize that a similar endeavor was undertaken 50 years ago. In February 1964, over 100 stitchers and seamstresses began work making a replica flag to be displayed at the Maryland Pavilion of the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.  The exposition was scheduled to run April through October in 1964 and ’65, respectively. This flag project, overseen by the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House Association, was plagued with difficulties and soon became a PR nightmare. First, it was discovered that the Maryland Pavilion at the fair had no room for such a large banner. Officials worried that there might be no place large enough to display it. The commission appealed to the United States Pavilion at the fair who, after learning of the embarrassing publicity, agreed to take it without knowing whether its space could accommodate the flag either. The Maryland seamstresses began to doubt their flag would ever make the trip to New York.

But, Maryland officials truly wanted to fly their own flag at their own pavilion. The decision was made to erect a 75-foot pole in front of their pavilion and move the flag indoors—folded and encased—in the event of bad weather. A June 6 piece in The Baltimore Sun explained how the commission decided to decline the federal bail out “with appreciation.” The following day, which happened to be Flag Day and Maryland Day the the fair, Governor Tawes dedicated the replica at a brief ceremony. The ’64 flag currently resides at the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House at 844 East Pratt Street.

The Hutzer Photograph Collection, as with many of our collections, is chock full of such strange or incongruent, but delightful, discoveries. We expected to find pictures of the Hutzler family, the department store’s many locations, window and product displays—of which there are many. We did not expect to find this little time warp. But it’s not completely surprising that Hutzler’s would be involved in this type of project given their history of fabric and textile offerings. We must admit we can’t quite connect Hutzler’s with the project, so any information would much appreciated.

What’s stranger still is that we made this find at this moment in time. We’re happy to announce that the 2013 Star-Spangled Banner Project has run far more smoothly and seamlessly than its predecessor, so far. The project completed it Kickstarter campaign yesterday, raising over $10,000 in four weeks. Underbelly congratulates the 2013 stitchers and everyone involved.

THEN: These ladies didn't know from Kickstarter. PP5 PP5  Replica of Star-Spangled Banner for New York World's Fair, M.E. Warren Photograpy, ca. 1964, MdHS

THEN: These ladies didn’t know from Kickstarter. PP5 Replica of Star-Spangled Banner for New York World’s Fair, M.E. Warren Photograpy, ca. 1964, MdHS.

Now: Placing the stars in France Hall. Star-Spangled Banner Project, July 2013, MdHS.

Now: Placing the stars. Star-Spangled Banner Project, July 2013.

*The Hutzler Photograph Collection is currently being reprocessed. The finding aid currently online, created in 2000, reflects only a small portion of the collection. Please check back in the coming months for a more accurate inventory list.



The Baltimore Sun, February 18, 1964: 6; April 30, 1964: 48; and June 6, 1964: 13.