I think that there is a common idea that the first US flag was designed by Betsy Ross, who told George Washington to change the flag from 6-pointed stars to 5-pointed stars. Due to this, pictures of her often demonstrate her sewing the flag, like this one:

Betsy Ross sewing stars onto an early American flag

However, I've heard it said that it's not true with descriptions ranging from

There is no archival evidence [...] to support this

from Wikipedia, to

[her] family were just looking for a quick buck!

from The Big Bang Theory.

Is is actually true that she made or even just designed the flag for George Washington, or is this a fabrication?

  • 3
    Well, the WP article on Betsy Ross, which you linked in the question, states that "it appears that the story first surfaced in the writings of her grandson in the 1870s (a century after the fact), with no mention or documentation in earlier decades." It has a segment discussing the veracity of the claim, and a link to a dedicated article stating that the flag design is "popularly – but very likely incorrectly – attributed to Betsy Ross". What exactly are you looking for in addition to that?
    – DevSolar
    Jun 12, 2017 at 16:16
  • 1
    According to the grandson, there was also an 1857 statement of Clarissa Wilson books.google.com/…
    – DavePhD
    Jun 12, 2017 at 16:25
  • @DevSolar In the grandson's 29 March 1870 letter, written after the reading, he discussed a statement of Clarissa Wilson which (allegedly) was reduced to writing in 1857.
    – DavePhD
    Jun 12, 2017 at 21:23
  • @DavePhD: Retracted my comment, didn't read on.
    – DevSolar
    Jun 12, 2017 at 21:32
  • 4
    So, when tourists go to the Betsy Ross House, they are visiting the place where Betsy Ross — a woman who may have created the flag — may have lived, whose grave may contain her body.
    – ESultanik
    Jun 13, 2017 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


Did Betsy Ross make the first US flag?

Possibly, but doubtful, as it seems to have fallen into legend as Francis Hopkinson is the only person to have claimed to have designed the flag in his lifetime.

According to legend, three members of a secret committee from the Continental Congress — including George Washington — visited Betsy Ross in May 1776 to ask her to sew the first American flag. Since Betsy attended church with George Washington and had done sewing for him before, some people believe it was their friendship that led him to ask her to sew the first flag.

Ross supposedly sewed the flag based on a drawing given to her by George Washington. However, no actual evidence exists that Betsy Ross made the first American flag. In fact, the first public mention of her story didn't occur until almost 100 years after the fact.

At least one other woman — Rebecca Young — has also been given credit for making the first flag. Some of Young's children have claimed that she created the first flag.

Rebecca Young's daughter, Mary Pickersgill, made the “Star-Spangled Banner Flag" that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. It was her flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that would become the U.S. national anthem.

Still others believe it was Francis Hopkinson from New Jersey who designed the first flag. Hopkinson was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence who later served as chairman of the Continental Navy Board's Middle Department.

Hopkinson was the only person to have claimed to have designed the first flag during his own lifetime. He even submitted a bill to Congress for his work. Although no one contested his claim, he was not paid for his work because he had already received a salary as a member of Congress.

Although it's unclear who came up with the design and actually sewed the first American flag, we do know for sure that the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution on June 14, 1777. It stated: "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." - Who Made the American Flag?

Wikipedia has this to say about the Flag Controversy:

The legend of Betsy Ross as the designer of the first flag entered into American consciousness about the time of the 1876 centennial celebrations, owing to the efforts of her grandson, William Canby. This flag with its circle of 13 stars came into popular use as a flag commemorating the nation's birth. Many Americans today still cling to the Betsy Ross legend that she designed the flag, and most are unaware of Hopkinson's legacy. The circle of stars (a circle connotes eternity) first appeared after the war ended and after Hopkinson’s original design.

Happy Flag Day (June 14) everyone.

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