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Betsy Ross

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
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)

Marriage #1
Husband: John Ross (m. November 4, 1773 - January 21, 1776) (his death)
Wedding took place at Hugg's Tavern in Gloucester, New Jersey.

Marriage #2
Husband: Joseph Ashburn (m. June 15, 1777 - March 3, 1782) (his death)
Wedding took place at Old Swedes Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Marriage #3
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, Pennsylvania. *

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, Pennsylvania.

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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