Caroline Purdy letter to
Georgiana Appleton, 1876
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In this letter Caroline Purdy, who had assisted
her mother, Mary Young Pickersgill in creating the original
Star Spangled Banner Flag, writes to Georgiana
Appleton, whose father had commissioned the flag's construction.
The flag remained in the hands of the Appleton family for many years
after the War of 1812, in which it flew at the
Battle of Baltimore and was the inspiration for Francis
Scott Key's song, the Star Spangled Banner.
By this time, Caroline Purdy was very old and quite poor. She had heard Appleton
was going to allow the flag to be displayed for the United States' 100th
anniversary celebrations. She asks if she could attach a card to the flag
explaining her connection to the flag in hopes that some patriotic people
would help her with her financial needs.
This letter is significant to historians because it makes several remarks
about the Star Spangled Banner Flag's creation.
You can learn more about the history of the
Star Spangled Banner Flag here or you can
order your own
Star Spangled Banner Flag here.
Letter from Caroline Purdy to
Georgiana Appleton, Baltimore (1876)
I have lately seen in the newspapers that the
noted flag which waved over Fort McHenry in the bombardment of Baltimore:
is in your possession, and is to be sent to the Centennial.
I take the liberty to send you a few particulars about the "Flag." It was made by my
mother, Mrs. Mary Pickersgill, and I assisted her. My grandmother, Rebecca
Young made the first flag of the Revolution, (under General Washington's direction)
and for this reason my mother was selected by Commo. Barney and George Stricker,
(family connections), to make this "Star Spangled Banner" which she did, being an
exceedingly patriotic woman.
The flag being so very large, mother was obliged to
obtain permission from the proprietors of Claggetts brewery which was in our
neighborhood, to spread it out in their malt house; and I remember seeing my
mother down on the floor, placing the stars: after the completion of the flag,
she superintended the topping of it, having it fastened in the most secure manner
to prevent its being torn away by (cannon) balls: the wisdom of her precaution was
shown during the engagement: many shots piercing it, but it still remained firm
to the staff. Your father (Col. Armistead) declared that no one but the maker
of the flag should mend it, and requested that the rents should merely be bound
The flag contained, I think, four hundred yards of bunting, and my mother
worked many nights until 12 o'clock to complete it in the given time.
I would also state, that many of my ancestors were in the Revolution. My grandfather William
Young was a captain in the war: my uncle Col. Flower was "Commissary General of
Military stores," and Colonel of "Artillery" - these both lost their lives by
camp fever; I had another uncle taken prisoner by the British, and whipped through
the fleet for attempting to escape: and my father in-law, Henry Purdy, served
through the war.
For my character and position I could refer to you Miss Margaret
Purviance, or any other reference you would require; I could further recall myself
to your recollection, as I was a Manager of the "Aged Woman's" Home at the same
time you were, and was particularly fascinated with you, (both being Episcopalians)
in the care of a Mrs. Jefferson, daughter of Ms. Whipple a signer of the Declaration
Your kindness and prompt attention to her induced me to present
my case to you.
I am widowed and childless, and now find myself, in my seventy
sixth year, in feeble health, and with the barest pittance of support. My friends
here in Balto.- have suggested that if these particulars, met with your approbation,
and were placed on a card attached to the flag, they might excite among patriotic
people, some compassion for my helpless condition; but I would leave this matter
entirely up to your judgement.
I have not been able to write, on account of not
having the use of my right arm, but thought it was better to put the signature
in my own hand with kind regards. I trust your sympathy.
(Sgd) C. Purdy
(full name Caroline Purdy)
Published October 10/24/11
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