Sister City facts

October 17, 2002

Here are some facts about Hagerstown and its sister city, Wesel, Germany:

  • Granted official township rights in 1241, Wesel is 761 years old. Hagerstown, incorporated in 1762, is 240 years old.

  • On July 27, 1962, Hagerstown and Wesel made the world's first intercontinental phone call, using the Telstar telecommunications satellite which went into orbit 17 days earlier on July 10.

  • Since 1952, five Hagerstown mayors have visited Wesel in an official sister city capacity.

  • Peter Minuit, the founder of New York who purchased the Manhattan peninsula in 1626 and settled New Amsterdam there, was born in Wesel.

  • Hagerstown and Wesel have sponsored mutual student exchange programs since 1987.

  • The Hagerstown-Wesel sister city relationship, begun in 1952, predates the official Sister City International program, which was first proposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956.

  • The Hagerstown-Wesel alliance is one of many. Sister Cities International represents more than 2,100 communities in 121 countries around the world.

  • The city of Wesel was 97 percent destroyed in February 1945 by the allied armies under Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

  • Schmankerl-Stube, the popular downtown Hagerstown German restaurant owned by Bavarian Charlie Sekula, has a "Wesel room" with the flags, tiles, and wall plates of Wesel.

  • Hagerstown did not have a city flag prior to 1955. In December 1954 the possibility of creating a city flag was raised at a Hagerstown City Council meeting planning a Hagerstown exhibit which was later shown in Wesel. Wesel had a city flag and displayed it at the Wesel Exhibit in Hagerstown. The Hagerstown flag was later created from a composite of designs entered in a flag contest and included in the exhibit shown to Wesel.

  • Mayor Winslow Burhans, the first mayor of Hagerstown to visit the sister city, was a descendant of Jan Burhans, whose grandparents were residents of Wesel more than three centuries ago.

  • Wesel's official heraldic animal is the weasel, which appears three times on a field of red on the city's coat of arms.

  • Hagerstown's "Little Heiskell," Hagerstown's honorary symbol, is said to have been made by a tinsmith named Heiskell in 1769 and was used as a weather vane on Hagerstown's original Town Hall. Today, it is carefully preserved as a historical artifact. A replica stands guard over the Wesel City Hall built in 1939.

  • Jonathan Hager, the founder of Hagerstown, was born near Wesel in Siegen, Westphalia.

  • Wesel's honorary title of "Vesalia hospitalis," or "Hospitable Wesel," was given by officials from the Netherlands in 1578 after Wesel had offered the Dutch decades of political and religious protection.
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