Betsy Ross, born on January 1, 1752, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a prominent figure in American history known for her role in the creation of the first American flag.
While her life and contributions are often celebrated, some aspects remain shrouded in legend and debate.
This brief introduction provides a glimpse into the life of Betsy Ross, a woman whose association with the American flag has left an indelible mark on the nation’s history and identity.
Betsy Ross Facts
1. Born on January 1, 1752, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Betsy Ross was born as Elizabeth Griscom in the bustling colonial city of Philadelphia. She was one of 17 children in her family, and her Quaker parents, Samuel Griscom and Rebecca James, raised her in the Quaker faith.
2. Married John Ross in 1773
In 1773, Betsy Ross married John Ross, who was an Anglican vestryman and an upholsterer by trade. Together, they established an upholstery business in Philadelphia.
Also Read: Betsy Ross Timeline
However, their marriage was short-lived due to John Ross’s untimely death in 1776 during the early years of the American Revolutionary War. Despite the brevity of their marriage, Betsy Ross continued to work in the upholstery trade after his passing.
3. Known for her role in creating the first American flag
Betsy Ross is most renowned for her association with the creation of the first American flag. According to legend, she was approached by a committee consisting of George Washington, George Ross (John Ross’s uncle), and Robert Morris in June 1776.
They presented her with a rough design of the American flag, which had 13 stars and 13 stripes, representing the 13 American colonies. Betsy Ross is said to have suggested changes to the design, including the use of a five-pointed star and the arrangement of stars in a circle.
While the exact historical accuracy of this story remains debated, it has become a cherished part of American folklore, and Betsy Ross is widely recognized for her association with the creation of the American flag.
4. Traditionally credited with suggesting design modifications for the flag
As previously mentioned, Betsy Ross is traditionally credited with suggesting design modifications to the American flag presented to her by George Washington and the committee.
According to the legend, she proposed using a five-pointed star instead of a six-pointed one, as well as arranging the stars in a circular pattern.
Also Read: Accomplishments of Betsy Ross
This circular arrangement made it easier to create the stars, as opposed to the more complex design of a star within a star.
While there is some debate among historians about the accuracy of this specific account, there is no doubt that Betsy Ross was an accomplished flag maker, and her contributions to early American flag design are celebrated.
5. The first American flag she created had 13 stars and 13 stripes
Betsy Ross’s most famous creation was the first American flag, which she is believed to have sewn in 1776. This flag had 13 stars, representing the 13 original colonies, and 13 stripes, alternating red and white, symbolizing the same colonies.
The design was intended to reflect the united efforts of the American colonies in their struggle for independence from British rule. The stars and stripes have since become iconic symbols of the United States and its history.
6. Operated an upholstery business with her first husband, John Ross
Betsy Ross and her first husband, John Ross, ran an upholstery business together in Philadelphia. Upholstery involved the crafting and repair of furniture, making draperies, and creating various fabric-based items.
While John Ross was also involved in the early stages of the American Revolution, Betsy’s skills as a seamstress and upholsterer became particularly valuable during this time.
After John’s death in 1776, Betsy continued to manage and operate the upholstery business on her own. Her ability to work with fabrics and textiles likely contributed to her involvement in flag-making, and she remained an active and skilled craftsman throughout her life.
7. Married three times in her lifetime
Betsy Ross had a complex personal life, marked by three marriages. Her first marriage was to John Ross in 1773. After his death in 1776, she married Joseph Ashburn in 1777. Tragically, Ashburn died while imprisoned by the British during the Revolutionary War.
Betsy’s third marriage was to John Claypoole in 1783, and together they had five daughters. Betsy’s marriages were intertwined with the challenges and turmoil of the Revolutionary period.
8. Widowed multiple times, her husbands had ties to the Revolutionary War
All three of Betsy Ross’s husbands had direct or indirect connections to the American Revolutionary War.
John Ross died early in the war, Joseph Ashburn was a sailor who suffered the hardships of wartime captivity, and John Claypoole was a veteran of the Continental Army. Betsy’s personal life was deeply affected by the conflicts and challenges of the Revolutionary period.
9. Died on January 30, 1836, at the age of 84
Betsy Ross lived a long life and passed away at the age of 84. Her death occurred on January 30, 1836, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Her legacy, particularly her association with the creation of the American flag, continued to be celebrated after her death, and she remains a notable figure in American history.
10. Buried at the Free Quaker Burying Ground in Philadelphia
Betsy Ross was buried at the Free Quaker Burying Ground in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Free Quakers were a group of Quakers who broke away from the mainstream Quaker community during the American Revolution because they supported the American cause.
Betsy Ross’s burial at this historic site is a testament to her affiliation with the Free Quakers and her enduring connection to the Revolutionary period.