Meet the Philadelphians tasked with embroidering presidential flags

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Monday, August 28, 2023
Meet the Philadelphians tasked with embroidering presidential flags
A small workshop in Northeast Philadelphia is the only place in the world where presidential flags are manufactured.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I mean, it's a dream job," said Duwenavue Sante Johnson. "Working with the President and the Vice President's flags allows us to express our gratitude, our thanks, our creativity and be part of the American identity."

Johnson is part of a 13-person team that is exclusively responsible for manufacturing presidential and vice presidential flags.

The small workshop, known as the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Troop Support "Flag Room," is located in Northeast Philadelphia. The tradition had its start in South Philadelphia roughly 170 years ago, or perhaps even more.

"Really, we like to trace our origins back to the Schuylkill Arsenal, which was originally founded in 1799, later renamed Quartermaster Depot," said Adam Walstrum, the Flag Room Supervisor.

The Schuylkill Arsenal became known for outfitting the Lewis and Clark expeditions and was responsible for creating clothing and textiles for the military.

Echoes of that tradition remain loud and clear today in the Flag Room, where hand-embroiderers like Helen Hoa Nguyen spend months working on a single piece.

"When I'm in Vietnam, I learned to do hand-embroidery already," she said. "I really love this so, when I got this, I'm very happy."

Nguyen is part of the majority on the dream team that immigrated to the United States.

"A lot of opportunity to show how you can do it," she said about America.

Together, the embroiderers represent one of the great contributions that Philadelphia continues to make on American history.

"History is really a living piece of our everyday life here in Philadelphia, in our neighborhoods and in the city itself," said Walstrum. "So, being that we can make the most authentic products right here in Philadelphia that serves the highest offices in the country, I think speaks volumes."

To learn more about the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, visit their website.

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