PHILADELPHIA -- Move over, Betsy Ross. There's a new generation of flag makers in Philadelphia.
Tucked away in a room at a military supply operation, a dozen seamstresses are responsible for hand-embroidering the U.S. presidential flags.
The dark blue standard, emblazoned with an eagle encircled in stars, denotes the presence of the nation's leader. It is often seen near the American flag during presidential speeches and other public appearances.
A quiet sewing room at the Defense Logistics Agency is about 10 miles from the house where Betsy Ross is believed to have sewn the first U.S. flag, and is the only place the banners are made.
Today is Flag Day, marking the date in 1777 when Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes.
"I think Betsy would be pretty impressed that what she started has evolved into this 200-some years later," supervisor Lisa Marie Vivino said.
The supply shop, which also provides the military with equipment, clothing, and food, has been producing flags since the 1850s. Production now includes brigade and battalion flags for the armed services, as well as ROTC standards for colleges and high schools -- although that job is aided by sewing machines.
Of all the flags, the presidential flag is their "pride and joy," Ms. Vivino said. It takes two people, stitching in tandem, about 45 days to finish each one.
It starts with the flag pattern being carefully traced in white pencil onto blue fabric. Then a pair of workers, on opposite sides of a small table, use more than a dozen colors of thread to enliven the image -- its shield, an eagle clutching 13 arrows and an olive branch, a circle of 50 stars. The hand-embroidered flag will look the same on both sides.
The colors and shape of the eagle have evolved since the first presidential flag. But the current design has been used by every president since World War II, even though each had the prerogative to change it.
The needle workers meticulously handcraft the vice presidential flags. Those standards have a similar image but on a white background with fewer stars.