American Brewer July 1939


Flag Which Inspired National Anthem Made in Brewery

Place Selected Because Malting Floor Provided Suitable Space for the Makers

Caption. Original Walls of Brewhouse, The Original Flag.

Caption: Original Walls of Brewhouse. Caption: The Original Flag.


The original “Star Spangled Banner,” the flag that waved over Fort McHenry and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem of the United States, was hand made by a widow and her daughter on the malting floor of a Baltimore brewery.


The short-torn flag, preserved in the National Museum and the walls of the old brewery, which are still standing, will be the center of attention again in September, when the country celebrates the 125th anniversary of “The Star Spangled Banner.”


Long owned and operated by Edward Johnson, brewer, physician, jurist and Mayor of Baltimore during and after the War of 1812, the brewery was selected as a convenient place for the stitching of the flag because the malting floor provided generous space for the 30 x 42 foot banner.


Less than a month before the British attack on Fort McHenry, American officers commanding the Fort had honored Mrs. Mary Young Pickersgill with the request that she make a flag for them. Mrs. Pickersgill was selected because her mother had established the family reputation and trade of flag making. She made the “Grand Union Flag” under which George Washington took command of the American Army at Cambridge, Mass., in 1776, and later trained her daughter in the art.


Using the malting floor of the brewery, which was near their home, Mrs. Pickersgill and her 14 year old daughter, Caroline, with the guidance of Mrs. Young worked daily and often until midnight, stitching the fifteen alternate red and white stripes and the fifteen stars which measured two feet from point to point.


The finished flag was flying over Fort McHenry when the British fleet began its bombardment. Every schoolboy knows the story of how Francis Scott Key, anxiously pacing the deck of a cartelship waited for the dawn to see “if our flag was still there.” In his joy at seeing it the next morning he penned the immortal words of “The Star Spangled Banner.” That was on September 14, 1814.


After the bombardment the flag was taken down and the shot holes were embroidered by Mrs. Pickersgill. It became the treasured trophy of Major Armistead, commanding officer of Fort McHenry. A century later his descendants placed it in the National Museum in Washington where it is still preserved.


Little has been written about the banner’s birthplace. Research has established that the brewery was built about 1783 by Thomas Peters, who had moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore. The foundation and some of the original walls are still standing in the courtyard in the rear of a commercial building at 831 Lombard Street. The firm became Peters & Johnson’s about 1796.


Mayor Johnson lived next door to the property and later acquired the brewery from Peters and operated it for many years. He transferred the operation to George I. Brown shortly before the war of 1812. Past historians have identified the structure as Claggett’s Brewery, but recent research has shown that Eli Clagget did not come into possession of it until 1824, and that at the time the flag was made it was operated by Brown.


Mrs. Pickersgill’s home, now preserved as the Old Flag House, was less than a block away. A block in the other direction was the home of Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, signer of the Declaration of Independence. The brewery, however, was far from being Baltimore’s oldest. Records show that Leionard and Daniel Barnitz erected a brewery at the corner of Baltimore and Hanover Streets in 1748 and it is believed that there were several even earlier brew houses.


Peters, Johnson & Co. is MD 103 (American Breweries III Mid-Atlantic Edition) 1761-1877.

The Barnitz brewery mentioned is MD 011 which ultimately became the Globe brewery 1748-1963. The vault of which is mentioned in "Beer Vaults I have known and Loved..."