Many people believe that General George Washington visited seamstress Betsy Ross in June, 1776 to ask her to sew a stars-and-stripes flag that would become the first official flag of the new country. The story continues that Ross convinced Washington to use five-pointed stars, instead of the six-pointed stars that he favored. Historians, however, don't believe any of this, and explain that the Betsy Ross myth began one-hundred years after the Revolutionary War.
Now a museum, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia is the house where Ross is purported to have made her famous flag. Visit the virtual museum to learn about The Woman, The House, and The Flag. "The Betsy Ross story was brought to public attention in 1870 by her grandson, William Canby, in a speech he made to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Canby and other members of Betsy's family signed sworn affidavits stating that they heard the story of the making of the first flag from Betsy's own mouth."
Common Place is a site exploring early American history that calls itself "a bit friendlier than a scholarly journal, a bit more scholarly than a popular magazine." This illustrated article by Harvard history professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich explores the oral tradition that made Betsy Ross famous. He explores why Americans have become so enamored with her story, despite the skepticism of historians. "To the general public, details about the flag are unimportant. It is Betsy they care about."
While admitting that historians agree that there are no primary sources to support the Ross tale, the Revolutionary War Archives present the "overwhelming circumstantial evidence in support of Betsy." Click on over for a Betsy Ross biography ("Betsy's Great-Grandfather, Andrew Griscom, migrated to New Jersey and then Philadelphia in 1680."), the story of the Betsy Ross flag, and a pro and con presentation of the "Did Betsy Ross sew the first American flag?" debate.
USFlag.org explores the ubiquity and appeal of the Ross story. "Careful historians do not accept the legend and neither should we. At the same time, there often seems to be a wistful regret, best expressed, perhaps, by President Woodrow Wilson when asked his opinion of the story. He replied, â€˜Would that it were true!'" For more historically accurate details about the history of the American flag, follow the links in the left-hand nav menu.
The Betsy Ross Homepage from USHistory.org is my pick of the day for the variety of its resources. Best reason to visit is the historical analysis of the Ross story (including transcripts of primary sources such as Canby's 1870 paper and affidavits from Ross' children) that includes point and counterpoint arguments perfect for a classroom project. Other highlights are directions on cutting a five-pointed star in a single snip, a flag timeline, a flag picture gallery, flag trivia and flag rules.