Betsy Ross is one of the most popular figures associated with the American flag. According to some historical traditions, she sewed the first American flag comprising of stripes and stars, and had been asked by George Washington to create this flag.
Although there is no historical confirmation of this, what is known for certain is that Betsy Ross was among the handful of women who sewed the first American flags. And she continued to sew the new American flag for different departments of the American government through most of her life.
Betsy Ross was born to a Quaker family on January 1, 1752. Her father was a skilled craftsman, so as Betsy grew old, she also decided to learn some valuable skill. So she went on to apprentice with an upholsterer where she learnt how to sew different kinds of clothes.
Later, Betsy eloped with John Ross in 1773 and went on to live in New Jersey. Here, they established an upholstery shop of their own. When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, John Ross joined the militia. He soon died during fighting and left Betsy Ross a widow.
According to historical legends, George Washington visited Betsy Ross in 1776 or 1777. He asked her to make a flag for the Continental Army and provided her with a basic design.
This design comprised of red and white stripes, and white stars. The legend says that Washington wanted Betsy Ross to use six-point stars in the flag but Betsy persuaded him that using five-point stars was better because it could be done more easily.
Although this is a popular legend, it is hard to confirm it from the historical sources. According to known history, the stars-and-stripes design was finalised by the Congress only in late 1777 and only afterwards was this flag made. Before this design, the old Grand Union Flag was used by the American forces.
Still, historical sources confirm that Betsy Ross was commissioned by many departments of the new American government to make the flag. So she did play an important part in the making of the new flag.
For instance, she created flags for the Pennsylvania State Navy Board. In 1810, she made huge flags for the New Orleans garrison. In 1811, the Indian Department commissioned her to make 27 flags.
Through most of her young and later life, Betsy Ross continued to make flags for the American nation. During this time, she married a second time but his husband died soon afterwards. She then married John Claypoole and had 5 daughters with him.
She lived to the ripe old age of 84 and died in 1836. It was later in 1870 that Betsy’s grandson, William Canby, claimed that she had made the first American flag for George Washington’s army. Although this claim could not be confirmed, it has made Betsy Ross a name that is now historically associated with the American flag.