Most people know Betsy Ross as the person who made the first United States flag, but this may not be true. There is no historical evidence to back up her family's claims that she did sew the flag. However, there is no evidence that indicates she did not. In fact, there is no documentation to suggest that George Washington commissioned anyone to make a flag. While we may never know the truth about the flag story, we know some important facts about Betsy Ross and her interesting life and legend.
Legend has it that George Washington, along with George Ross and Robert Morris, visited Betsy Ross' house in Philadelphia in 1776 with a sketch of the flag that he was interested in having made. The flag featured thirteen alternating red-and-white stripes and thirteen six-pointed stars in a circle on a field of blue. The story goes that Betsy suggested the use of a five-pointed star as opposed to a six-pointed star on the sketch, as it would be easier to cut out.
The legend that Ross sewed (and perhaps even helped design) the first United States' flag has no proof to substantiate it, although there are plenty of family stories handed down through generations. Ross' grandson, William J. Canby, stated before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that Ross had told him and others many times that she made the first American flag by hand.
It seems entirely plausible that the story is true. Supporters of the tale point to the fact that George Ross was the uncle of Betsy's husband and that she had likely done sewing work for Washington before as a reason for why she may have been chosen for this job. In addition, Ross was making flags around that time. There is proof that she did make flags for the Pennsylvania State Navy and there are receipts which show her compensation for those flags. Finally, there has never been a solid counterclaim for who made the first flag. If Betsy Ross didn't do it, who did?
Whether or not Ross was behind the flag may never be known, but what is certain is that her life was indicative of the hard times she lived in, and contains a number of interesting facts that can tell us something about the time period.
Even if she was not the seamstress responsible for the most famous of American cloths, Ross is a historical figure in her own right. The following is a list of unique, substantiated facts about Betsy Ross that should give you an idea of who she really was and what her life might have been like during the tumultuous years of the America Revolution.
Betsy Ross was originally buried in Philadelphia at a Quaker burial ground. Her remains were removed from their original location at the Quaker burial ground and placed in Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia twenty years after her death.
A year before the United States bicentennial in 1975, arrangements were made to have the remains of Betsy Ross removed from the cemetery in Mt. Moriah to the Betsy Ross House courtyard as this was the location where she supposedly lived while making the first American flag.
It is said that workers were not able to find Ms. Ross' remains under her tombstone at Mt. Moriah. Upon search of the rest of the family plot, bones were discovered that the workers assumed belonged to Betsy Ross. These remains were then taken to a tombstone at the Betsy Ross House where her remains are located as of today.
With little evidence for or against the story, the patriotic tale of the plucky seamstress keeping her family business going in difficult times and supporting the war effort still warms American hearts. While we may never know if Ross actually made the first flag, we do know some important facts about Betsy Ross which may give us an insight into the role of women in Revolutionary America.