Celebrating Betsy Ross on Flag Day 2021

From my personal postcard collection

14 June has been Flag Day in the United States since Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation in 1916, although National Flag Day wasn’t established by Congress until 1949.

It’s difficult to think of the American flag without also remembering Betsy Ross, the seamstress who is credited with making the first flag. I say credited because, except for her grandson making the claim in the 1870s, there is no other earlier mention or documentation of this event.

Elizabeth (Griscom) Ross Ashburn Claypoole was born on 1 January 1752, reportedly in New Jersey, and died on 30 January 1836, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As her family was Quaker, she was educated in Quaker schools. After her schooling was finished, her father had her apprenticed as an upholsterer.

When Betsy married John Ross, she was excluded from the Quaker community as he was a member of the Anglican Church. Betsy then worshiped with her husband. Together, they established an upholstery business which Betsy continued after his death and through the lifetimes of her second and third husbands.

Therefore, Betsy Ross was well qualified as a seamstress to make flags and there is documentation that she was one of the people hired by the state of Pennsylvania to make flags during the American Revolution.

Whether or not Betsy actually sewed the first American flag will probably never be proved. However, she is most certainly a symbol of women who contributed to the cause of American independence.

If you are lucky enough to live near or visit Philadelphia, be sure to visit The Betsy Ross House, at 239 Arch Street in the historic district. For those not in the neighborhood, if you scroll down the home page of the house, a virtual tour can be taken.

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