How Betsy Ross Worked


"The Birth of Our Nation's Flag" painting depicts Betsy Ross dutifully stitching stars onto a flag in her upholstery shop in Philadelphia. Library of Congress

The story of America's founding wouldn't be complete without images of Betsy Ross dutifully stitching stars onto a flag in her upholstery shop in Philadelphia or presenting it proudly to George Washington himself. This moment is depicted in a famous painting, "The Birth of Our Nation's Flag," (seen above) created by Charles Weisgerber in 1893. It shows Ross seated by an open window amidst scraps of red, white and blue silk, holding out the flag to a trio of colonial gentlemen.

On the painting is written: "The National Standard was made by Betsy Ross in 1776 at 239 Arch Street, Philadelphia in the room represented in this picture. The Committee, Robert Morris and Hon. George Ross, accompanied by General George Washington called upon this Celebrated Woman and together with her suggestions produced our beautiful Emblem of Liberty."

While this painting and others like it did much to cement Betsy Ross into America's national mythology, the facts about Ross's true role in the creation of the first U.S. flag are very cloudy.

Ross remains both a mythologized character in a folk tale and a real, historical person who may or may not have done the thing people all know her for doing.

What else do we know about Betsy Ross's life? What influence does her legend have on American patriotism? And what's the real story about the creation of the American flag? Let's find out.

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