5 Baltimore Moments That Forever Changed Textile History
Baltimore is a town full of colorful characters. Known as “The Land of Pleasant Living,” we’re ready to crack open a Natty Boh with a bucket of steamed crabs at any moment. But behind our laid-back exterior, Baltimoreans are an incredibly hard working bunch, and we’ve made innovations that have gone down in the history books.
Here are a few little-known (but important) ways we’ve changed the world:
Baltimore Moment That Changed History #1:
Mary Pickersgill Alters a Pattern
Late at night, deep inside a Baltimore brewery, flagmaker Mary Pickersgill was hard at work – stitch by stitch, she was sewing red, white, and blue fabric together to form a humongous American flag. The year was 1813, and Baltimore was at war with the British.
Big it was, sure, but what really made this flag unique was Mary’s approach to its design. Earlier versions of the American flag had displayed the stars in geometric or circular patterns. But since there were an odd number of states – 15 at the time – Mary broke with tradition and arranged the stars in haphazard way.
Lining up five horizontal rows with three stars each, Mary turned the stars so that the top point of each tilted in a different direction.
That gave the flag its ‘spangle.’
When the flag was finished, Francis Scott Key saw it flying above the bombardment of Fort McHenry. From his vantage point on the Baltimore harbor, the stars looked like they sparkled. Overwhelmed with emotion, he composed his feelings into a poem, The Star-Spangled Banner. It became known as our National Anthem, the flag became the iconic symbol of America, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Baltimore Moment That Changed History #2:
Hard Working Seamstresses Unite!
Before the Civil War, clothing was a made-to-order business. But during the war, savvy garment factories created three standard sizes to mass-produce soldier uniforms: “small,” “medium,” and “large.” Demand skyrocketed, and the ready-to-wear industry was born.
Baltimore had a huge garment industry, employing as many as 27,000 workers, many of whom were immigrants who arrived at Locust Point from Italy, Lithuania, and Russia. Women were paid less and forced to work longer hours, and a ‘ranking’ system developed.
But Baltimore was also known for its forward-thinking ways, and it embraced new ideas about workers collectives, or unions. In fact, the all-female Working Girls’ Society was organized in Baltimore in the 1890s to ensure fair pay, shorter working hours, and safer working conditions.
200 women had died at New York’s Triangle Shirt factory because its managers had sealed off the building’s fire exits – they believed these exits would encourage workers to take breaks and ‘decrease productivity.’
Who would have thought a group of hard-working Baltimore girls could help change history? They did, and the unionization of Baltimore’s clothing factories led to better standards for its workers and fewer on-site tragedies.
Baltimore Moment That Changed History #3:
Street Art Meets ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’
Watch out, Big Apple! A 15-foot pink poodle was on the loose. Fifi, a canine sculpture from Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM), travelled to New York to be a part of the famed window displays at downtown department store Bergdorf Goodman.
The American Visionary Art Museum is a beloved Baltimore institution that’s unlike any other in the world. This museum couldn’t exist in any other city besides Baltimore, because its mission is to champion the genius found in the unexpected corners of life. Instead of ‘highbrow’ art, it celebrates everyday, self-taught artists like you and me.
Fifi is hand-made from 1,000 yards of vintage pink tutus. She is supported by two sets of wheels and pontoons (in case she needs a swim). Passersby can’t help but smile when they see her.
Could serious-minded New Yorkers handle Fifi? You bet – for one month, she held a treasured post in Bergdorf’s luxury goods department window and it’s estimated that more than a million people saw her. The upscale department store regularly features art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim. “But this,” store officials told The Baltimore Sun, “in a way, is even more interesting than all of that. We were thrilled.”
Baltimore Moment That Changed History #4:
Stringer Bell Goes Legit
Or does he?
Called the greatest show in television history, HBO’s The Wire depicted Baltimore’s darker side, through crime, police and an arguably realistic portrayal of life in the city.
Stringer Bell, played by Idris Elba, was the business-minded second-in-command of the fictional Barksdale drug empire.
He was a brutal enforcer of Barksdale’s punishments, but like all great characters, there were many facets to Stringer’s personality. In his ‘spare’ time, he studied economics at Baltimore City Community College and buys real estate (illegally, but who’s counting?)
In Season 3, Stringer sets up a print shop called Copy Cat Printing. Part of the groundbreaking nature of The Wire was how true the script remained to real-life Baltimore. No other TV show was like that, and none, probably ever will be.
Copy Cat Printing does indeed exist on Charles Street, and it’s been around for over 40 years. And while you won’t find Stringer Bell behind the counter these days (we won’t give away the plot), you can watch this YouTube clip as Stringer complains about incorrect paper delivery with one of his employees. He then waits on ‘customer’ Jimmy McNulty, a Baltimore City detective, played by Dominic West.
Can gangsters trade in their lives of crime for print schedules and on-time deliveries? They just might change the course of history…
Baltimore Moment That Changed History #5:
Copy Cat Printing Introduces An At-Home T-Shirt Designer
In true Baltimore fashion, we at Copy Cat Printing are making our new technology available for everyone to enjoy – from their own computer!
Call it the democratization of design. New technology is developed, perfected, and then it’s simplified for everyday use.
We think the talented artisans, seamstresses, and hard-working designers that make up our city’s past would be happy to know we’re sharing our technology!
Meet the DTG Garment Printer
Copy Cat’s newest T-shirt printer is purposely built for low-mid volume production.
This digital apparel printer is the fastest and most durable direct-to-garment printer in its class.
It can create full-color images on both light and dark T-shirts and finishes the job in as little as 24 hours.
Have You Worked With Copy Cat Lately?
Hi, I’m Tom Fincham, manager of Copy Cat Printing. I’ve lived in Baltimore all of my life, and you might say I’m a history buff.
I was pretty excited when I had the chance to run the business here at Copy Cat, because for years I had seen its sign on top of the building in Baltimore’s Station North neighborhood.
And, of course, I love watching The Wire.
So consider this my way of giving back to the city I love: by making our latest technology available to everyone, at a low cost, and in a super-easy to use manner.
So How Can You Use Our Newest T-Shirt Making Technology?
If you have a treasured photo, or an image of your favorite band, a company logo you want to proudly display, or even a favorite saying…
You can turn all of these things into a piece of wearable art, by creating a custom, full color T-shirt.
Just How Customized?
Say you were designing jerseys for a little league team. Using our T-Shirt Designer, each jersey could have different names or numbers on the back.
Our incredibly soft fabric is made of the highest quality 100% cotton. You can choose from more than two-dozen colored shirts, even ones with multicolored backgrounds, to print your design on.
You can design many dozen T-shirts, or as few as one.
And you have our promise: no matter the size of your job, we’ll give you our very best personal attention.
Copy Cat Printing: Quintessential Baltimore
for More Than Four Decades
Who Is Copy Cat Printing?
Founded by Irving Pritzker in 1969, Copy Cat Printing was one of America’s first ‘quick printing’ businesses. Using smaller printing presses, Copy Cat had faster delivery times than larger commercial presses, and this service became wildly popular. For the first time, customers could literally wait in the store for their ‘quick copies.’Today, Copy Cat Printing is owned by Paula Fargo, a successful entrepreneur with other businesses in the city. Copy Cat is a city and state certified Minority and Women Business (MWBE). Copy Cat is truly a family, with many on our staff working here for over 20 years. Copy Cat’s hands-on team prefers working with our customers personally and can help you find the best products for any budget.
Some of Baltimore’s biggest institutions turn to Copy Cat for their printing needs. We’re the official printer for the University of Baltimore, providing on-campus printing and copying services for nearly a decade.
Our other clients include educational institutions like Johns Hopkins University and Baltimore City Community College; government contractors; many members of the Baltimore business community; nonprofits; and small local businesses.
We are firmly committed to our Baltimore community by keeping all of our printing operations in-house. And we are involved in charitable endeavors by donating to local schools like Roland Park Elementary and the SEED Charter School.
Our four decades of experience have allowed us nearly unparalleled knowledge of the printing and promotional products industry, so we can offer suggestions for budgets of any size – and ensure that you get even more business.
And with our pick up and delivery services, you don’t even need to leave your desk to get your job done right!
That’s right. Place an order with Copy Cat, and you can have it delivered to you, often the very next day!
Buy Local, Help Baltimore
When you work with Copy Cat, not only can you enjoy the benefits of same- or next-day turnaround, pickup and delivery, you’re doing something more:
You’re supporting our city.
Your files aren’t being outsourced across the globe; all of our production work is done right here at our Baltimore print center.
You know exactly what you’re getting and we’ll even send you a proof of your order to review before it goes to print.
Our top-notch quality control procedures ensure all products leave our door looking exactly as they should.
And when you use our online T-Shirt Designer, you can even say you’re wearing a piece of Baltimore history!
So Try It Out Today!
Manager, Copy Cat Printing