The Betsy Ross Flag (Flags That Inspire Me: A Series)

This being Flag Day in the United States, it seems fitting to feature the predecessor of our national Flag, famously known as the Betsy Ross Flag.  But did good Betsy actually have anything to do with producing the first edition of this banner?  The point is debated among historians today.

According to Betsy’s grandson, William J. Canby, she did.  In a paper presented to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1870 in Philadelphia (Betsy’s birthplace and home), Canby asserted that his grandmother had been visited at her seamstress shop by none other than George Washington (then still a colonel), a relative of hers named George Ross (also a colonel and a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress), and a third man who is popularly remembered as Robert Morris (“the financier of the revolution”).

Though legend gives Betsy credit for designing the flag, she claimed in her lifetime only to have been responsible for changing the star design from those with six points to the five-pointed version.  The committee of men who came to her for assistance arrived with a rough sketch of their idea.  Canby’s account says that there was considerable discussion about that design.  It included the six-pointed star in the canton (the blue field) because the committee members thought it easier to sew, at least until Betsy demonstrated that she could easily accommodate the other design.  Washington himself sketched out the final design for the banner in her presence and left it with her.  Also left in her care was an old naval flag, the solid stitching of which the committee wanted Betsy to imitate.  Canby, in the paper he delivered to the historical society, said that Betsy Ross went into the flag-making business and the new nation kept her busy from that day onward.  She died in 1836.

Betsy was originally buried in the Quaker Cemetery on Philadephia’s South 5th Street.  A couple of decades later she was moved to the Mount Moriah Cemetery.  As the nation’s bicentennial celebration approached in 1975, Philadelphia decided to honor her by transferring her remains to the courtyard of the Betsy Ross House.  No bones were found in her reputed gravesite.  Bones nearby were moved instead, and we can only hope that the remains in her grave are actually hers.  In the year of her two hundredth birthday (1952) she was honored by the US Post Office with a postage stamp.

Betsy may or may not have had a hand in making the first version of the Stars and Stripes, but national legend holds that she did.  If historical facts interest you, I recommend you visit the Wikipedia site for a list of the evidence for and against the argument that she sewed our first national banner (click HERE).

One thing is sure, and that’s the fact that the so-called Betsy Ross Flag has gone down in our national consciousness as a sign of revolutionary fervor, patriotism, and the constitutional values of our Founders.  For me, those values include smaller government at every level and with less intrusion into our personal lives.  Our Founders knew that tyrany is always predicated upon what’s good for us by those in power.  Many of those Founders were intimately connected to the City of New York.  Wouldn’t they scratch their heads if they knew that the city’s mayor has at his command a powerful committee of bureaucrats whom he has appointed himself and who are now forbidding things like salt, large soft drinks, and even big bags of popcorn?  What would those same Founders say to the idea that people are now being forced to pay for the reproduction-preventing devices and medications of others?  I suspect they’d not only react with bewilderment–they’d also blush!

By the way, the Besty Ross Flag is a symbol for this blog.  If you’ll look in your URL line you will see that it appears there.  You can drag it to your task bar and pin it for easy access to all of the Liberty Professor’s commentary.    In addition, some of you may already know that the Besty Ross Flag is the inspiration for a new banner which is being referred to as the Flag of the Second American Revolution.  It appears at the end of this blog post.  It’s popular with members of today’s Tea Party and the Liberty Professor has been known to fly it proudly himself …. 


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