The Molly Pitcher Frock
Like people, buildings have their history. The 44 North Bedford, home to Bedford Street Antiques, is no different. The northern, three-story section of Bedford Street Antiques was originally a church. Completed by the First Lutheran Church in 1852 at a cost of $7,122.50, glimpses of the original architecture can be found throughout the three floors. During the Confederate Invasion of Carlisle, the church was struck twice. One shell landed in the supports of the roof without exploding. Attendance was down until the shell was removed!
When the congregation built its present church on the corner of E. High and S. Bedford at the turn of the 1900s, the John W. Plank Company renovated the church into a factory for the manufacturing of women’s and children’s garments. On the cutting edge of ready-to-wear day clothing, one of the company’s most successful lines was the one-piece cotton dress known as the “Molly Pitcher Frock.” Plank’s garment business eventually became the Carlisle Garment Company in 1913. In 1956, a 10,000 square foot building on the adjoining southern property was added for storage and shipping. In its peak year of 1962, the company produced and shipped 175,464 dozen dresses and pajamas – that’s 72,105,505 pieces! Total employment was about 300 with a payroll in 1963 of $650,000. The company operated until 1976.
Molly Pitcher’s Poem
All day the great guns barked;
All day the big balls screeched and soared;
All day, ‘mid the sweating gunners grim,
Who toiled in their smoke-shroud dense and dim,
Sweet Molly labored with courage high,
With steady hand and watchful eye,
Till the day was ours, and the sinking sun
Looked down on the field of Monmouth won,
And Molly standing beside her gun.
Laura E. Richards
You can read Carlisle’s poem to Molly Pitcher on a visit to the Molly Pitcher Monument located in Carlisle’s Old Graveyard on East South St.
FYI: The statue of is a composite likeness of the descendants of Mary Hays McCauley, Carlisle’s Molly Pitcher.
Carlisle Guided Tours
Walking tours of Historic Carlisle
(717) 249-2926 (Not sure if they are still in business)
Thompson, D.W. and Schaumann, Merri Lou. “Goodbye, Molly Pitcher,” Cumberland County History, Vol. 6, Number 1, Carlisle, PA, Cumberland County Historical Society,1989.
Echman, Walter. Program script on the history of the Carlisle Carpet Co., 1964.
Hoffer, Ann Kramer. Twentieth Century Thoughts-Carlisle: The Past Hundred Years, Carlisle, PA, Cumberland County Historical Society, 2002.