Betsy Ross was one of the most important individuals during the American Revolution. Betsy Ross is often considered the sole designer of the stars-and-stripes flag adopted by the Continental Congress in June of 1777.
However, there’s no conclusive evidence that Betsy Ross actually made the flag, and there’s no conclusive evidence that the Betsy Ross flag was, in fact, the first American flag—but it’s generally accepted as the first.
What is the story about the Betsy Ross Flag?
It was Betsy’s grandson, William Canby who first presented the story of the Betsy Ross flag. Betsy Ross was a Philadelphia seamstress and is said to have created the first American flag based on a design presented to her by a small committee, including George Washington. This included a six-pointed star, however it is believed that Betsy asked if it could have 5-pointed stars and to arrange them in a circle.
Betsy demonstrated how a 5-pointed star flag design would be easier to cut, using a single snip of the scissors to produce them more efficiently. The following year, this design was officially adopted by Congress as the national flag.
But, flag experts have their doubts about the story’s authenticity, due to limited historical evidence and documentation to support the claim that Betsy Ross made the first flag.
You’ve certainly seen the Betsy Ross flag at one point or another. The flag contains thirteen stars in a circle within the flag’s canton along with thirteen alternating red and white stripes.
Read on if you’d like to learn the history of the Betsy Ross flag:
The Stars in a Circle
As we stated, the Betsy Ross flag includes thirteen five-pointed stars in the shape of a circle in the flag’s canton. Many scholars believe the stars have five points to represent the Washington family coat of arms. After all, General George Washington led the new nation through the American Revolutionary War.
Each star represents one of the original thirteen colonies. In fact, the Journals of the Continental Congress state “that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Although there’s speculation about why the stars form a circle, most evidence and historians agree it symbolizes perpetuity and equality—that no colony is greater than another.
The Red and White Stripes
Until June of 1782, the reason behind the red and white colors were largely debated. Charles Thomson reported the meaning behind the colors while addressing Congress about the Great Seal of the United States, stating, “White signifies purity and innocence. Red[,] hardiness and valor.” There’s no definitive evidence behind the meaning of the stripes, but most agree that the Sons of Liberty flag from 1765 likely inspired the Betsy Ross flag. Moreover, the thirteen stripes are also considered to represent the original colonies.
As we mentioned before, we may never know the truth behind our nation’s first flag, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know the history of the Betsy Ross flag. Historians regularly debate if Betsy Ross actually made the flag, but regardless of who made it, the stars-and-stripes flag is one of the most important flags in history.
An Icon Of American History
The only primary source of information for the Betsy Ross flag story is her grandson, William Candby who made the tale public in 1870, nearly a century after the events were supposed to have occurred. Therefore, it will always remain a mystery over the accuracy of the Betsy Ross flag story and be a matter of debate.
Today, Betsy Ross is still a proud symbol of the American revolution and has become an icon of American history. The Betsy Ross flag is an enduring representation of American patriotism and is something people feel a strong connection with.
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Or for more information, get in touch with our flag experts who will be happy to advise you.