Fact or Fiction: Did Betsy Ross Create the First American Flag?

It’s widely reported that the first American flag was created by Betsy Ross. According to the story, Ross was approached by George Washington in 1776 with a mock sketch of an American flag. The sketch featured 13 stars in the upper-left corner and 13 horizontal stripes. Washington wanted Ross to patch together an American flag based on the sketch, a request to which she agreed. This ultimately led to the creation of the first American flag — at least that’s how the story goes. So, did Ross really create the first American flag?

About the Story

The story of Ross creating the first American flag was largely started by members of her family. In the late 1800s, one of Ross’s grandsons, Canby, contacted the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Canby claimed that his grandmother had created the first American flag upon Washington’s request. Canby said that Washington, along with two other men, visited Ross in 1776 and asked her to create a new American flag based on a sketch.

Several other members of Ross’s family agreed that Canby’s story was correct — and that Ross did, in fact, create the first American flag. The story was later published in several magazines, resulting in the widespread belief that Ross created the first American flag.

Did Ross Create the First American Flag?

Although it’s an entertaining story, there’s no evidence supporting the claim that Ross created the first American flag. Some experts say it’s possible Ross was recommended for the task but was never actually approached or asked to create the flag. Regardless, the story of Ross has been passed down from generation to generation, leading many people to believe that it’s true.

With that said, Ross was an active flag-maker. She may not have created the first American flag, but she did make flags. Throughout the American Revolution, Ross would sew together American flags for the Pennsylvania Navy. After the American Revolution, she continued her hobby of creating American flags.

Whether or not Ross created the first American flag is unknown. Several of Ross’s family members say she did, though experts claim there’s no evidence to support their story. Regardless, Ross was an active flag-maker who made dozens if not hundreds of flags during her lifetime. She enjoyed sewing and upholstering, and she applied these skills to her flag-making hobby. Considering that there’s no evidence to support it, though, Ross probably didn’t create the very first American flag.

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