Brown's Brewery was a brewery located on East Lombard Street in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1813, Mary Pickersgill sewed the famous Star Spangled Banner Flag in one of its malthouses. At the time, the brewery was owned by Baltimore merchant George I. Brown who had bought it from Edward Johnson, the third Mayor of Baltimore. George Brown sold the brewery to Eli Claggett in 1818, and until its final closure in 1879, it was known as Claggett's Brewery. The site once occupied by the brewery was excavated in 1983 as the Baltimore Center for Urban Archeology's first project.
The brewery, which for a while was known as The Baltimore Strong Beer Brewery, was founded in 1783 by Thomas Peters, who had come to Baltimore from Philadelphia to manufacture beer for the French and American troops during the American Revolution. Peters married Rebecca Johnson, the daughter of Baltimore physician Edward Johnson, in October of 1783. Johnson later became a partner in his son-in-law's brewery business, and it was then called Peters, Johnson, and Company. When Edward Johnson died in 1797, his son, Edward Johnson Jr. (1767-1829), took over his father's share in the company and eventually became its sole owner.
Edward Johnson Jr. was elected Mayor of Baltimore in 1808 and would serve in that capacity (with two interruptions) until 1824. The main brewery buildings burnt down on November 21, 1812 at an estimated loss of $80,000 but were soon rebuilt. However, according to Rob Kasper writing in the Baltimore Sun, the mayor found that simultaneously "brewing and governing" was too demanding and put the newly rebuilt brewery up for sale in 1813. The advertisement for the auction described the property as "the most complete establishment of its kind in the United States" and consisting of a brewhouse, two 100 by 30 feet malthouses with a granary over each, a brick counting house, a cooperage, a two story dwelling, a stone coach house, and a stable.
George I. Brown, a local merchant, bought the brewery at the auction on July 14, 1813. He was an acquaintance of Mary Pickersgill, who had been commissioned by Colonel George Armistead in 1813 to make a large flag (30 by 42 feet) to fly over Fort McHenry. Pickersgill did not have adequate space in her house to assemble a flag of that size and lived only a block away from Brown's Brewery. Brown permitted her to assemble what became known as the Star Spangled Banner Flag on the floor of one of his malthouses.
Brown had only limited success as a brewer and in 1818 sold the brewery to Eli Claggett, a former soldier wounded during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, who then operated it as Claggett's Brewery. In 1850 it produced 50,000 barrels of beer and was the largest of the city's 11 breweries. The Claggett family continued to run the brewery until 1879 when the business closed and the property was sold to the National Casket Company. The old brewery buildings, which were used to store caskets, were destroyed in the 1904 Great Baltimore Fire along with much of Baltimore's business district.
The corner on East Lombard Street that Brown's Brewery used to occupy later became known as Brewer's Park. A commemorative plaque was placed on the site, although it erroneously gave Claggett's name to the brewery where Mary Pickersgill assembled the flag. A similar anachronism appears in Robert McGill Mackall's 1976 painting, Mary Pickersgill Making the Star-Spangled Banner (on display at the Maryland Historical Society) which depicts several beer barrels in the backgroud labelled "Claggett's Brewery". The site was acquired by the city of Baltimore in 1970 and in 1983 became the first project of the Baltimore Center for Urban Archeology. Much of the present knowledge about the brewery's history was the result of the project's archeological and archival research. The site is now occupied by a Marriott Hotel.
Notes and references
- Arnett, Earl; Brugger, Robert J.; and Papenfuse, Edward C. (1999). Maryland: A New Guide to the Old Line State, p. 274. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801859808
- Flowers, Charles V. (June 16, 1983). "The beer's gone, but you can soak up some history". Baltimore Sun, p. B1. Retrieved 19 May 2012 (subscription required).
- The exact dates for the various changes of ownership are unclear. A contemporary account of a fatal accident involving one of the brewery's draymen in 1803 gives "Peters and Johnson" as the name of the brewery. See Griffith, Thomas Waters (1833) Annals of Baltimore", p. 177. According to Flowers (June 16, 1983) by 1807 the brewery was advertised as "Edward Johnson and Company".
- Kasper, Rob (July 3, 2011). "Flags and beer: A Baltimore tradition". Baltimore Sun
- O'Prey, Maureen (2011). Brewing in Baltimore, pp. 13-14. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738588131
- Kasper, Rob (2012). Baltimore Beer: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing, pp. 25-26. The History Press. ISBN 1609494571
- O'Prey (2011) p. 55
- Mary Pickersgill Making the Star-Spangled Banner, Robert McGill Mackall's 1976 painting depicting Mary Pickersgill in the brewery sewing the Star-Spangled Banner. (Maryland Historical Society)
- Public Archaeology as a Tool for Community Preservation and Empowerment, an account of the Baltimore Center for Urban Archeology's excavations on the site of Brown's Brewery (EAC/Archaeology, consultants to the project)