Philadelphia Continues Centuries-Old Tradition of Hand-Sewn Government Flags
By Mike DeNardo
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The nation’s presidential and vice presidential flags are embroidered by hand. And that work is only done in one place: Philadelphia.
In a nondescript room at the Defense Logistics Agency, in the Lawncrest section of the city, fifteen seamstresses are assigned to hand-embroider US presidential and vice presidential flags, just as it’s been done for 150 years.
It takes two workers 45 days to finish each flag, sewing hand-traced patterns to exacting standards on both sides.
“So, front and back have to be the same,” notes flag room supervisor Hue Nguyen (at right below). “I have to check the back, too. No knot!”
Fellow supervisor John Fricker (at left above) says the presidential flag, depicting an eagle circled by stars, can be seen in the Oval Office.
“We see that flag also when President Obama is conducting press conferences,” he tells KYW Newsradio.
“I think all the ladies feel the same thing,” says Hue Nguyen. “We are very proud.”
Presidents can change the flag, but the current design has been used since Truman.
The flag room also produces flags for ROTC programs and the armed forces, although those are made by machine. Linda Farrell digitizes the stitch counts and color variations before turning on an automated sewing machine that Betsy Ross could have only dreamed about.
“I love this job!” Farrell says.
And Fricker says the heraldry may have now come full circle, as the flag ladies just completed a 13-star Betsy Ross flag for the agency’s headquarters in Virginia.