Many American schoolchildren have heard the story of how Betsy Ross sewed the first United States flag. But they may not have heard the controversy that surrounds that story.
The tale of Betsy Ross was generally unknown prior to 1870. That was when William Canby first told the Pennsylvania Historical Society of his grandmother’s place in our flag’s creation.
According to Canby, back in 1776, General George Washington came to Ross’ upholstery shop to commission a flag based on a rough design. Ross made some adjustments and sewed the original Stars and Stripes. It was this flag that was presented to Congress and confirmed as the nation’s emblem.
With no actual records and nothing but hearsay to go on, Canby was largely disbelieved. But by 1873, his story was running in Harper’s Weekly. The audience grew significantly, as did belief.
Other descendants of Betsy Ross have continued the legend, and even embellished a little. And supporters are always looking for historical evidence to prove the story. But today it is often dismissed as a myth or considered a fable.
Whether the Betsy Ross story has any truth to it may never be known for sure. But it will forever be part of our nation’s history, even if only as folklore.