Betsy Ross was an American businesswoman,
upholsterer and seamstress reputed to have
made the first American flag at the request
of General George Washington.
Although she did produce some of the earliest
American flags, it is highly unlikely that
she actually designed the first American flag,
as some reports claim.
Betsy Ross presents her flag
Biographical fast facts
Full or original name at birth: Elizabeth Griscom
Date, time and place of birth: January 1, 1752,
at approximately 10:00 p.m., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date, place and cause of death: January 30, 1836,
at 63 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. (Natural causes)
Husband: John Ross (m. November 4, 1773 - January 21, 1776) (his death)
Wedding took place at Hugg's Tavern in Gloucester, New Jersey.
Husband: Joseph Ashburn (m. June 15, 1777 - March 3, 1782) (his death)
Wedding took place at Old Swedes Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Husband: John Claypoole (m. May 8, 1783 - August 3, 1817) (his death)
Wedding took place at Christ Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Daughters: Aucilla Ashburn (a.k.a. Zilla or Zillah Ashburn)
(b. September 15, 1779, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -
d. 1780, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Elizabeth Ashburn (a.k.a. Eliza Ashburn) (b. February 25, 1781,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - d. February 1833)
Clarissa Sidney Claypoole (b. April 3, 1785, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -
d. July 10, 1864, Fort Madison, Iowa)
Susanna Griscom Claypoole (b. November 15, 1786, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -
d. June 11, 1875, Abington Township, Pennsylvania)
Rachel Claypoole (b. February 1789)
Jane Claypoole (b. November 13, 1792, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -
d. January 4, 1873)
Harriet Claypoole (b. December 20, 1795, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania - d. October 8, 1796, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Father: Samuel Griscom (a prominent carpenter) (b. 1717 - d. 1793, of yellow fever)
Mother: Rebecca (James) Griscom (b. 1721 - d. 1793, of yellow fever)
Burial site: The Betsy Ross House on Arch Street, Philadelphia,
Error corrections or clarifications
* Note that Betsy Ross has been buried in
three different locations over the years. The first
was the Free Quaker burial ground on South 5th Street
near Locust, then the Mount Moriah Cemetery, and
finally, her remains were relocated to the courtyard
of the Betsy Ross House on Arch Street, Philadelphia,
NOTE: There is a great deal of disagreement over where
Ms. Ross lived over the course of her life, as well as
her supposed burial locations.
The story of Betsy Ross and her possible creation
of the first American flag was not known to the
general public until 1870. That year, Betsy's
grandson, William Canby, related the story of
the first American flag, as told in his family,
years earlier. The Historical Society of
Pennsylvania heard his account of how General
George Washington, George Ross and Robert Morris
of the Continental Congress, had met with Betsy
Ross in 1776, with a request to produce the first
stars and stripes flag based on a prepared drawing
they gave her.
Documentation to substantiate the claim was
minimal, though there is no question that she
produced flags for the fledgling government.
There is also proof Ross was acquainted with
George Washington. Further investigations revealed
that the parties supposedly involved, were in
fact in Philadelphia during the timeframe offered.
Over the years, a few documents have been discovered,
adding additional credence to the story.
Some have reported that Betsy actually designed
the first American flag. But this was never
something her family claimed. It was reported
that she recommended some minor changes be made
to the proposed flag design, such as making the
six-pointed stars suggested in the prepared
drawing, five-pointed stars.
With the assistance of her family, Betsy Ross
continued her upholstery and flag-making business
for more than half a century, ultimately retiring
in 1827, at the age of 75. She then moved to the
country to live with her daughter Susanna, as her
vision rapidly failed. Within five years of her
retirement, Betsy was completely blind. Shortly
after her vision failed, she moved in with her
daughter Jane, at 63 Cherry Street, in Philadelphia.
January 30th, 1836, she passed away in her sleep.
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