The committee left with the new design and commissioned painter William Barrett to complete a painting with the new changes. They sent Betsy to meet a ship merchant for supplies and she spared no time getting to work. She presented the committee with her completed creation in time for the Liberty Bell to announce the reading of the , signed by both Ross and Morris, at the state house on July 8, 1776. (see )
As the Revolution continued on, she prepared paper cartridge tubes with musket balls, repaired uniforms for the Continental Army, and performed other duties for the war effort. She is believed to help Washington when he planned to attack Trenton on December 26, 1776. (see ) However, her main occupation became working for the government making flags.
The following year, with several flag designs and banners being displayed, the Continental Congress decided to choose one design to be the official national flag of the new country. On June 14, 1777, they approved Betsy’s Star-Spangled Banner, stating, "Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation”. The following day, Betsy married Joseph Ashburn, a merchant ship captain. Joseph and Betsy had two girls, one of which died very young, before Joseph was captured by the British in the West Indies in 1781.
Taken to Great Britain, Joseph was imprisoned in Mill Prison at Plymouth. While there, he met John Claypoole, a Quaker and ironically, a former suitor of Betsy’s. The two became close friends and after Joseph turned extremely ill, John nursed him until he took his final breath on March 3, 1782. Believing he would meet the same fate, John was shocked when he was released on June 22 and returned to the states with over 300 other prisoners in an exchange. When John set foot back on America’s shores in August, he immediately visited his childhood friend and widow of his prison mate to inform her of Joseph’s illness and death. He also passed along Joseph’s heartfelt farewells to his widow.
John and Betsy found comfort in each other as their childhood romance rekindled and the couple wed a year later at Christ Church with the war officially ending a few months later. (see ) Betsy had five more daughters with John, with the youngest dying in infancy. She brought her four surviving girls into her sewing business, still making flags for the government and other patriotic items.
John was one of many Quakers who broke their faith’s peace promise to fight for liberty and freedom in the American Revolution. However, he still held to his Quaker believes, such as abolition of slavery, as did Betsy. When other former Society of Friends members in John’s situation formed the Free Quakers, the couple immediately joined.
Disabled towards the end of his life, John died on August 3, 1817, leaving Betsy once again to provide for herself. She maintained her business with her daughters until her eyes made it almost impossible to continue, thus retiring in 1827 at age 76, leaving her business to her daughter Clarissa Claypoole Wilson. She died on January 30, 1836, less than a month after her 84th birthday. When she was laid to rest next to John in the Free Quaker Burying Ground, it seemed like her legacy was buried with her. When the nation's centennial approached, her grandson, William Canby, resurrected her story in a paper he presented to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1870. In a private speech to the group, Canby recalls his grandmother's words, verified by family members, to recount Betsy's contribution to history.
Canby's article was based on information he received from Clarissa before her death and corroborated it with other family members. Clarissa's daughter and a niece both signed affidavit's verifying Betsy's story in 1870. Betsy's daughter, Rachel Claypoole Fletcher, wrote her own detailed narrative of her mother’s historical account in an affidavit signed on July 31, 1871. They all unequivocally state remembering Betsy telling of her visit from General Washington, his request, and her making America's first Star-Spangled Banner on numerous occasions. All three affidavits refer to Canby’s article, "The First American Flag and Who Made It,” claiming the contents were true. In July 1873, Harper's Monthly published Canby’s narrative, introducing Betsy's story to the national public and by the following decade, textbooks included Betsy’s legacy.
Some historians today reject Betsy's claim, especially since no official documentation has ever been discovered affirming her story. A recovered receipt from the Pennsylvania State Navy Board shows she was paid 15 pounds for making standards, or flags, for the ships around this timeframe. However, similar receipts show several other Philadelphia seamstresses, including Rebecca Young, making flags. Rebecca's daughter, Mary Young Pickersgill, prepared the gigantic flag flown over Fort McHenry upon which Francis Scott Key gazed when he wrote. “The Star-Spangled Banner”. (see ) Rachel’s affidavit states that other seamstresses had different designs, yet is was Betsy’s that was chosen and approved by Congress on June 14, 1777, an event remembered and celebrated every year as Flag Day.
Twenty years after her death, Philadelphia purchased the land containing the Free Quaker Burying Ground. Therefore, Betsy and John were moved to Mt. Moriah Cemetery. As the bicentennial of the nation neared, her remains were moved once again in 1975 to the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia.
While there is no concrete evidence beyond the family’s statements connecting Betsy to making the first flag, there is nothing disputing it beyond a reasonable doubt either. Reviewing Betsy’s life for the next 50 years after the event of making flags and passing that on to her daughters, and her personal relationship with Washington before it, my review of the evidence available leads me to believe Betsy’s story. Despite the controversy, Betsy Ross is honored by the nation every year on January 2 on Betsy Ross Day.
In preparation for this year’s July 4th celebration earlier this month, Nike designed and prepared a new shoe displaying Betsy Ross’ flag. Colin Kaepernick, who has made much more of an impact as an anti-American activist than he ever did as a quarterback, denounced the shoe as promoting racism just days before Independence Day. Nike immediately capitulated to their spokesperson and announced they would pull the shoe before it hit the shelves. Many believe it was all a publicity stunt, coordinated by Kaepernick and Nike to boost their brand. Since Kaepernick claimed his original protest of kneeling during the National Anthem was about bringing attention to police violence against blacks and never about the flag, others proclaim this new charge of racism only confirms a deep anti-American stance. (see )
Liberty, Betsy Ross' legacy, along with our Founding Fathers', is being trampled on like the flag because of a progressive and socialist school system and a willful ignorance of our citizens. As a Quaker, Betsy was an abolitionist adamant on the freedom of all people. This is a woman, who in a very short period of time, lost two husbands to a war effort to do just that. Her third husband, a Quaker and abolitionist who defied his faith's peace promise because he so adamantly believed in liberty, was a prisoner of war under her flag and war effort that gave freedom to all men so one day Kaepernick could to take a knee regarding our flag. He kneels to ignorance.
In response to Kaepernick’s lasted protest, Conservative Radio Talk Show Host Rush Limbaugh immediately designed and offered a “Stand up for Betsy Ross” Flag shirt, with proceeds going to the Tunnel of Towers Foundation. Within 3 weeks, over $3 million was raised to pay off mortgages for families of fallen officers, first responders, and soldiers, with sales continuing to grow. While Nike pulled a stunt to line their own pockets, freedom-loving Americans opened their wallets to honor those who protect the rights and freedoms our flag represents, heroes Kaepernick and Nike reject.
Liberty, Americans have always had major disagreements in the past. However, one could argue their stances were rooted in a love for their country and they were all working for the same goal. Never before have we experienced one group so blatant and vocal in their hatred for America and desire to destroy her foundation. It is a stance that is threatening to rip the fabric of America apart if it continues. While Kaepernick and Nike kneel before their god, the almighty dollar, we should be kneeling before the Cross of Christ in repentance. It is the only thing that will repair this country.
That’s my 2 cents.
July 31, 2019
Working diligently on her most recent order, Betsy looked up as three men entered her store. She was well familiar with two of them as she attended church with one and was related to another. She could tell by their expressions they were on a mission, so she escorted them to her parlor in the back of her store. They approached Betsy and immediately stated their purpose. The colonies were ready to break from Great Britain and the Continental Congress needed something from her. Regardless of never having made a flag before, Betsy Ross was ready to help.
Elizabeth “Betsy” Phoebe Griscom was the eighth child of Quakers Samuel and Rebecca James Griscom’s seventeen children, born January 1, 1752, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A prominent city, it was a magnet for innovation, progress, and politics. A month after her birth, Benjamin Franklin opened the first hospital in the colonies in the bustling city. (see ) While Boston proved to be the heart of the American Revolution, Philadelphia served as the colonists’ political home. (see ) A well-known builder in the city, Samuel Griscom helped in the constructing of the state house, later named Independence Hall.
Growing up, Betsy attended a Quaker school and at age 19, she was apprenticed to a local upholsterer, William Webster. Her repertoire included furniture covers, mattresses, window blinds, and any such item needing sewing. Before long, she and fellow apprentice and Episcopalian, John Ross, fell deeply in love. However, Betsy’s Quaker religion prohibited her from marrying outside of the faith. Love won out as the two 21-year-olds eloped in 1773, crossing over to New Jersey to get married. As a result, Betsy's church expelled her and her family disowned her. Undeterred, the Rosses quickly started stitching their lives together, opened their own upholstery shop, and began attending Christ Church where they occupied the pew next to George and Martha Washington.
Within two years, the Revolution started and John joined the militia. (see ) While guarding gunpowder at the waterfront in January of 1776, John was killed when it exploded, leaving Betsy widowed at age 24. Too distraught to continue the business, family members stepped in for Betsy and broke it up, selling it off well below what it was worth. Returning to her parent’s home to mourn, Betsy soon realized the freedom and independence she just gave up. Therefore, she left her parents once again, renting a home, and reopening her own business.
About four months later, before the was signed, General George Washington, Colonel George Ross, and Robert Morris entered her store and asked if she could prepare a flag. Both Washington and Ross were well aware of her sewing skills as they both had personal knowledge of her work and had visited her home on numerous occasions. Betsy sewed buttons for Washington as well as embroidered ruffles for his shirt shortly before his appointment of Commander in Chief prior to the Battle of Bunker Hill. (see ) Ross understood her dire situation as he was her late husband’s uncle. A wealthy landowner, Morris rounded out the committee.
Washington presented Betsy with the committee’s idea of the new flag. Reviewing the rough sketch, Betsy noticed the stars had six points. Grabbing a piece of material, she skillfully folded it several times before making one quick cut. Opening it, she presented the men with a perfectly symmetrical five-point star, showing them such a change would make production much easier. After offering a few more suggestions, such as placing the stars in a circle instead of scattered, Washington sat at her table and redesigned the flag.
A STITCH IN TIME