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Jone Johnson Lewis

Betsy Ross: Did She Make the First American Flag?

By June 13, 2013

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Betsy Ross Flag
Painting Depicting Betsy Ross
Jupiterimages, used with permission
Betsy Ross made the first American flag after a visit in June 1776 by George Washington, Robert Morris, and her husband's uncle, George Ross. She demonstrated how to cut a 5-pointed star with a single clip of the scissors, if the fabric were folded correctly.

So the story goes... but is it true? (My conclusion: the truth may be more interesting than the myth.)

Read more in honor of Flag Day (June 14): About Betsy Ross

Comments

January 15, 2007 at 12:18 am
(1) Mark says:

This is a myth. Please check your sources.

January 21, 2007 at 8:25 am
(2) Jone Lewis says:

>>This is a myth.<<

If you'll read the linked article, you'll see the sources and my conclusion.

March 28, 2008 at 9:48 pm
(3) E. COLLINS says:

Mary Pickersgill made the flag that flew at the legendary Fort Henry. The war is strongly remembered when it occurred in 1812. September 14, 1814 is when Francis Scott Key creates America’s national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner” it doesn’t become our official anthem until 1931.

January 15, 2009 at 8:38 am
(4) cynthia says:

this is not a myth…george washington did come and ask her if she would make the first U.S. flag. and she did. she told the story to her grandson while she was on her deathbed…no joke…of couse none of the things i have just said can be justified correct because it was not told by barley anyone and it can not be proven.but either way it was true and if you would like some more info on this topic then just go to http://www.answers.com/topic/betsy-ross
thanx!

January 21, 2009 at 2:48 pm
(5) Jone Lewis says:

Unfortunately for this story, there’s no evidence that Washington visited Ross (other than the story a relative told many years after he supposedly heard the story), and there’s no record of her being paid in the account books of the time. We do have records of her being paid for sewing other flags. There’s no evidence that Betsy Ross told anyone else during her lifetime — and why wouldn’t she? There’s plenty of reason to guess that the relative may have misunderstood or exaggerated the story. I’m still skeptical, unless something other than this very flimsy circumstantial evidence shows up. And, I still think that focusing just on this flag story diminishes the reality of Betsy Ross’ life during the war.

March 5, 2009 at 10:53 am
(6) sallllly says:

ok what kind of sources are you takling about when you say she didnt make the first flag ? i want to see sources b.c im doing a reseacrch project on Betsy Ross and im talking about the myth but idk where to find what people are saying about the myth

March 5, 2009 at 6:16 pm
(7) Jone Lewis says:

The whole point, Sally, is that there ARE no sources for the myth before the time that the relative published his story, long after the supposed event and long after Betsy Ross’ death.

April 23, 2009 at 8:45 pm
(8) Ms. Kathleen says:

I just visited the Smithsonian and it was not Betsy Ross, it is Mary Pickersgill and her datughters. The story of Betsy Ross was a story her grandson made up years after the flag was made. http://americanhistory.si.edu/events/event.cfm?key=26&eventkey=1663&date=2009-04-23

May 18, 2009 at 4:13 pm
(9) seanfernan says:

betsy ross didnt make the first flag. she was a flag maker in philadelphia but no one knows for sure who did all we know is it deffinatly wasnt her. you have to rember the first american flag was nothing like the flag she made. the first documented american flag acctually had the british flag symbol in the upper left corner and 13 stripes.

May 18, 2009 at 4:16 pm
(10) seanfernan says:

mary pickersgill didnt make the first flag either. the point is NO ONE knows who it was. we just know who it wasnt.

June 7, 2010 at 11:20 am
(11) kim says:

Watched the History Channel, on the American Flag, & learned that Betsy Ross was not the seamstress who sewed the 1st American Flag; it was Mary Pickersgill.
I’m saddened to know that our History books have taught us incorrectly

July 11, 2010 at 2:37 am
(12) Tiana Hatfield says:

This is a myth, she did not make the first american flag. it was mary pickersgill. the flag is still able to be viewed at the smithsonia.

November 4, 2010 at 4:01 pm
(13) sarg says:

Whydo people look to destroy positive history? Most beleive Betsy Ross did meet Gen Washington, Ross and Franklin. The mention of a flag with the british symbol, well the flag that will always be recognized and should be as the first is the 13 stars and strips. This whether it was the stars lined up or circled was the first to show a new country on its own. British symbols are o other flags because they owe or control the countries. A flag in America must be one of independence, one with no ties to any other nation. Its likely several people sewd up a flag back then, its likely no one tought to run round and take credit, unlike today patriots did not need recognition. Politians did not even campiagn unlessthey were losing. Besty Ross telling the story onher death bed shows to me she wanted her family to now and did not seek attention. We should be ble to agree that its possible and likely several out together what could be the first, in fact you can see several versions of the flag and they all had 13 stars but were placed differntly, they were red, wrote and blue, and they had 13 strips. If people need to know who was first, its not going to happen in a manner everyone will agree but we could celebrate all those who were part of making te flag the greatest symbol of freedom the planet has ever seen. Put all of woman who are beleived to have done this and all the version together. Teach our childern that like the one who fought, they did not do it alone, freedom is a product of many, no one person can claim credit because building a great nation requires the views and voices of many.

November 9, 2010 at 5:50 pm
(14) ashleyli says:

wow, idont know. im doing a project on this and all this debate is confusing me. shoudl i just say “NOBODY KNOWS FOR SURE.” and leave it as is or should i pick one person :[

November 10, 2010 at 11:31 pm
(15) Let the evidence speak for itself says:

I am sad to say many have bought the myth of Betsy Ross, the truth is that she doesn’t need to have “making of American Flag” on her checklist, she was a pioneer for women before they were even recognized politically, or even educational wise, as it used to be illegal for women to enter a library! She was a business owner and a very successful one, she was brilliant!

As for positive history, do we want to tell lies that make us feel better or know the truth of how it all really happened and LEARN?

As an avid student of Colonial American History for over 15 years I am still finding information that blows my mind and dispels previous notions I’ve had since grade school.

NEVER STOP LOOKING FOR THE FACTS, and from the FACTS you will learn your own truths. There are several great books out there about the great myths of history, “Lies my Teacher Told Me” and “That’s not in my American History Book!” are some of the best and INCLUDE THEIR SOURCES!!!

Happy hunting fellow history nerds! :)

June 19, 2012 at 11:12 am
(16) Mike says:

Thanks Jone. Very insightful!

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