Betsy Ross and her flag

Betsy Ross and her flag

A 3-cent stamp honoring Betsy Ross was issued in Philadelphia, Jan. 2, 1952, commemorating the 200th anniversary of her birth. Born a day earlier, Jan. 1, 1752, to a Quaker family in Philadelphia, Betsy was the eighth of 17 children.

Betsy apprenticed as a seamstress and fell in love with upholsterer John Ross, son of an Episcopal rector at Christ Church and nephew of Declaration signer, George Ross.

George Ross, the son of an Anglican clergyman, was a delegate from Pennsylvania to the Constitutional Convention, being elected its first vice-president. George Ross was a colonel in the Continental Army and later an admiralty judge in Pennsylvania where he refused to acknowledge the authority of the federal court over state decisions. George Ross’ sister married George Read, another signer of the Declaration.

As Quakers forbade interdenominational marriage, John and Betsy eloped, being married by the last colonial governor of New Jersey William Franklin, the son of Ben Franklin.

John and Betsy Ross attended Christ’s Church with:

  • George Washington
  • Robert Morris
  • Francis Hopkins
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Benjamin Franklin

The Ross’ pew, number 12, was next to a column adjoining George Washington’s pew number 56 and not far from Ben Franklin’s pew number 70.

During the Revolution, John Ross died when a munitions depot he was guarding blew up. Shortly after, in June 1776, General Washington reportedly asked Betsy Ross to sew an American Flag.

Another woman who made the Grand Union Flag of 1775 was Rebecca Flower Young, whose daughter Mary Young Pickersgill made the famous “Star Spangled Banner” which flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812

A widow, Betsy married sea captain Joseph Ashburn at the Old Swedes Church in 1777. That winter the British forcibly quartered in the home of Betsy and Joseph Ashburn. Joseph Ashburn later sailed to the West Indies for war supplies, but was captured and sent to Old Mill Prison, where he died in 1782.

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Fellow prisoner John Claypoole later brought the news of Joseph’s death to Betsy, only to fall in love with her himself. Betsy married John Claypoole at Christ Church, May 8, 1783, and together they had five children.

The Betsy Ross Bridge across the Delaware River connecting Philadelphia with Pennsauken, New Jersey, is named in her honor.

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