Did Betsy Ross Design the First American Flag?

Betsy Ross Flag
Betsy Ross Flag

Most historians question the possibility of Betsy Ross being the designer of the first American flag. The story is a historical myth made public after the close of the Civil War. Betsy Ross’ story did not surface until thirty-four years after her death when her son, William J. Canby presented a paper he wrote to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. He claims stories were verbally passed down throughout the years by Betsy and other family members about her designing the first American flag.

There are several reasons historians question Betsy Ross’ involvement with the first American flag. No records indicate that Continental Congress had a committee to design the national flag in the spring of 1776. Even though Betsy Ross kept detailed store records, no invoice or document has been found linking to this transaction. The first meeting, discussion or debate by Congress to discuss a national flag did not occur until Flag Day on June 14, 1777.

Many historians speculate there were at least seventeen flag makers and upholsters working in Philadelphia during the time the flag was created. Some historians theorize Margaret Manny may have designed the first Continental Colors Flag, but lack evidence to link her with the first national flag. Other flag makers working in Philadelphia during that time include Rebecca Young, Anne King, Cornelia Bridges, and William Barrett. Any flag maker in Philadelphia could have designed the first American flag.

While everyone enjoys the story of Betsy Ross been the designer of the first American flag, historians are still searching. Do you want to learn more about Betsy Ross and the first American flag? Visit the United States Flag Store and read about it. Please, share your opinions on this controversial subject.

22 thoughts on “Did Betsy Ross Design the First American Flag?

  1. Can you tell me anything about a flag that has just 48 white stars on a blue background but does not have any stripes. A friend gave this to me and said it was in his family but he didn’t want it anymore. All the flags I see have the red and white stripes. Thank you for any help in this matter.

    1. David, I just came across your question and, since you posted it 1 1/2 years ago, do not know if you ever received a reply. What you have is a Navy Union jack, a flag, up until 9-11-2002, flown from the jack staff at the bow of every commissioned U.S. Navy ship whenever at anchor, bouyed out or tied to a pier. It represents the states just as the blue starred field on the national flag. Since your flag only has 48 stars, it predates Hawaii and Alaska’s entry into the union but rather dates from 1912 thru 1959. The starred jack was replaced (9-11-2002) by the “1st” Navy jack, a banner bearing 13 red and white stripes, an elongated rattlesnake diagonally placed and the motto “Dont Tread On Me” at the bottom. This jack is to fly until the end of the war on terror. It is said to have been the battle flag of Commadore Hopkins of the Continental Navy during our Revolutionary War. Along with the Stars and Stripes, it flies from the pole in my front yard. Hope this helps. Carl

  2. What is the size of the cotton flag used on the coffins of service veterns. My husband passed away and I want to order a case (triangle shaped) for the flag.
    Do not know the correct size.
    Would appreciate a response,
    Thank you

    1. Hi, Fran,
      First of all, I’m sorry to hear about your husband. Please accept my sincere condolences. The flag of which you speak is most likely 5ft. x 9.5ft., which is the standard size of flags used to cover caskets. Here’s a link to some cases.

      Please let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with — Thanks

  3. Would love it if some one tell me the rule for choosing the size of a flag related to the length of a boat? My boat is 15 1/2 feet long. Thx Bob

    1. Speaking as a professional flagman. There is no rule. Its a dealers choice so to speak. Based on your pole size. A 2′ by 3′ would work OK. Some use a 12″ x 18″ flag. Or if you really wish to show your colors flya 3′ x 5′ or a 4′ x 6′. Remember it is the material you use that will do the best job. A 2 ply poly is your best source. Nylons are good also and have a better color to them. These both come in embroidered stars. Pure Poly do not last long andare printed. Hope this is of some help. John

  4. I am looking for the 52 star flag (replica okay) from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode: “The Royale” in order to play a good nature prank on my friend. If someone could help me out with this or obtaining a similiar fictional flag, please contact me. Thank you.

    1. Hi Larry, I too, am also looking for that exact same flag for myself as well. I’m currently looking as we speak. But, also, if you do come acrosson where to get one, please let me know & vise~versa Larry on your end too, I hope. Much appreciated !!
      Kondo Kev

      1. Kondo. There wasn’t an actual flag after looking at the episode again. It was just a small printed insignia on a piece of wreckage. But one would still need neat to have .

  5. I am giving flags as gifts. I want nice flags, durable, but not so pretty that they won’t be flown, 3×5 or 4×6, what do you recommend?
    Thank you,

    1. The usual proportions have the length of the flag ( long side ) about 1/3 to 1/4 the height of the pole on which it is attached. These proportions are a good rule-of-thumb.
      Dick L+.

  6. i would love to find a flag maker who only makes and sells american made by american.is that possible?so many shops hire illegals,and buy china or other off the wall junk.if we only make one thing in america today,let it be the united states of america flag!!!!

  7. Does anyone know the value of a WWII Natzi flag . Flag is about 4’x3,’ in good shape, but obviously 65 years or so old.

  8. I am trying to find 6″ to 12″ stick nautical signal flags for my husband’s surprise birthday party. The flags that spell out words. Do you carry these, and if not, does anyone know where I can get them quickly?

  9. I went to the Fraunces Tavern Museum (in NYC) yesterday and they have on display a flag with 5 stars and 9 stripes. Can you tell me anything about this flag?

  10. Interesting note: In the Minutes of the Pennsylvania State Navy Board of May 29, 1777 is an entry for : “payment to Mrs. Ross of L14 12S 2d for making ship’s colors.” So, Betsy WAS making flags, just not one for GEN Washington. But its still a great story about a true American patriot.

  11. can you tell how many flags go on a pole and what order like can you fly a American p. o flag and state flag can our flag touch another flag when the does not blow

  12. I am so excited about my flag! I bought it for the local nudist camp that i am in charge of. I surprised the members by running it up the pole on movie night. Well…the place went totally bonkers. I was the most popular person there. After watching “ET” everyone ran to the pole and danced wildly around the until we all grew so tired we couldn’t dance any more! After several rounds of sparkling flavored water we all went to the bond fire and rested! We love our new flag and are looking forward to many fun and exciting nights. The quality of the flag is the best we have ever seen. We have had many flags that frayed shortly running it up the pole. This one seems very durable. If I can get everyone to put some money in the club coffers we will buy another one. I hope to send photos when we get them devoloped at the local CVS. We are the talk of the local community and many of the local dignitaries are planning to come to movie night this week and we will fly the flag with great pride! We have hired a local artist to design a flag with our emblem on it. I will forward you a photo when I get the design. I hope to get some film as i used several rolls taking photos of some members at the official flag raising ceremony. Thanks again for this great product. Please plan on visiting us when you can. You will always be welcome!

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