Happy Flag Day!
June 14 is the official Flag Day in America, a day to honor our stripes and stars. It is a day to show our American Pride. Philadelphia is an especially significant location for the birthplace of the flag. It has been taught that in our great city of brotherly love the first American flag was created by seamstress, Elizabeth “Betsy” Ross.
Recognized as an historical landmark, The Betsy Ross House in Old City Philly attracts thousands of visitors a year. People are curious to visit the home where the first flag was created. But, is the story of Betsy Ross an urban legend? Many historians think so.
Betsy Ross & The Claim To Flag Fame
The story of Betsy Ross creating the first American flag dates back to the late 1800s, when her grandson, William Canby, presented a paper to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania claiming that his grandmother was indeed the creator of the first flag.
According to Canby’s account, Betsy Ross was approached by George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross (her uncle) in 1776 and asked to create a flag for the new nation.
During this meeting, Ross was allegedly presented with a sketch of a flag that featured 13 red and white stripes and 13 six-pointed stars. Ross allegedly agreed to make a flag to match the design but not before suggesting a few changes. Such proposed changes included arranging the stars in a circle and reducing the points on each star to five instead of six. The proposal was accepted, and Ross allegedly went on to create the flag.
Betsy Ross or Francis Hopkinson
Historians agree there is little evidence to support this story. In fact, there are no contemporary accounts of Betsy Ross creating the first flag. There is no official documentation to suggest that she was involved in the design or creation of the flag.
Moreover, the first documented use of the stars and stripes design was in a flag flown by the Continental Army in 1777. This was a year after the alleged meeting between Betsy Ross and the founding fathers.
On the contrary, there are some who say that Francis Hopinkson, lawyer, poet, writer, and signer of The Declaration of Independence, likely created the first American flag. Letters show Hopkinson sent a bill to the Congress requesting payment for design work on several projects, including the flag.
Surprisingly, near Independence Hall, there’s a plaque on a building that states, “Francis Hopkinson, Designer of the American Flag”.
The Legend Lives On
Despite the lack of evidence, the story of Betsy Ross creating the first American flag has become a popular legend in American history. It has been perpetuated through popular culture, including books, movies, and more. There was even a postage stamp issued by the US Postal Service in 1952.
While it is possible that she may have been involved in the creation of the flag, there is no documentation to confirm this. Nonetheless, her personal story is extraordinary and indeed worth celebrating. You can learn more about Betsy Ross by visiting here.
To this day, the true origins of the American flag remain a subject of debate among historians.