“SHIPS COLOURS – For all nations, private signals, military flags, etc., An elegant assortment of American Colours, of every size, made of fiort quality bunting. Apply to Mrs. R. Young, Albermarle St.”
In the summer of 1813, soon after his arrival from the Canadian frontier in northern New York state, where he had taken part in the capture that spring of British held Fort George on the Niagara River, Major George Armistead, U.S. Artillery was assigned to command Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor. He found the fort without a suitable ensign and thus placed an order to James Calhoun, U.S. Deputy Commissary in Baltimore for two flags. Since the U.S. Arsenal in Phildelphia was currently without ensigns, Calhoun purchased locally for the ensigns from Mary Young Pickersgill (1776-1857) and her mother Rebecca Young (1739-1819), well established flag makers of colours since 1806.
* * * *
Mr. James Calhoun, Jun., Deputy Commissary
To Mary Pickersgill
For 1 American Ensign 30 by 42 feet, first quality Bunting $405.90
For 1 do do 17 by 25 feet, do do do $168.54
For Fort McHenry $574.44
August 19, 1813
Baltimore, 27th October 1813. Received from James Calhoun, Jun., Deputy Commissary, five hundred and seventy-four dollars and forty-four cents in full for the above bill.
For Mary Pickersgill
* * * *
Received the within flags, signed duplicates
Gr. Armistead, Major Comm[andin]g.
A year later in September 13-14, 1814 both ensigns would be flown over Fort McHenry during “the perilous fight” and became the inspiration for a new national song – “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The garrison flag (42’x30′) is on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.