We all know (or should, at least) the story of the Betsy Ross Flag, none of us know the story of these ladies and how they came to be sewing American flags at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1909. This photo was taken while the U.S. was still engaged in military action in the Philippines (an extension of the Spanish-American War, although it officially ended in 1902). The Yard was winding down from a huge surge in manufacturing employment due to goods needed by the military, with women engaged in the production of garments and textiles, including the sewing of American flags. What struck me about this photo is not just the high-intensity production these women are involved with, but simply the layers and layers of clothing and intricate hairstyles they’re maintaining while they’re doing this tough, physically exhausting work.
It’s interesting to note that when this photo was taken there were only 46 stars on Old Glory—New Mexico and Arizona joined the U.S. as a state three years later, with Alaska and Hawaii not admitted until 1959. The material they are using in this photo is bunting, likely made out of cotton, wool or a blend of the two. (Now flags are often sewn out of synthetics such as nylon, although official flags flown by the military and government still use bunting materials.)
This photo is another one from the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Reading Room.
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