An article about the first American flag, Pennsylvania Evening Post newspaper article 30 August 1777
Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 30 August 1777, page 453

This article reported from the minutes of the Continental Congress, which did not mention Betsy Ross:

“In CONGRESS, June 14, 1777. Resolved, That the FLAG of the United States be THIRTEEN STRIPES alternate red and white; that the union be THIRTEEN STARS white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

News of the new flag was noteworthy because its design differed significantly from the Grand Union flag, which George Washington and others had been using. Although the Grand Union flag featured alternating red and white stripes, it differed in one significant way: instead of a blue field with stars, it featured a small version of the British flag in the upper left-hand corner.


When General Washington flew the Grand Union flag in his effort to drive the British from Boston in March 1776, the British thought he was flying a British flag. This confusion exposed a need for a new distinctly American flag.

The connection of Betsy Ross to the first flag was not known to the wider American public for nearly 100 years – until her grandson told a story that many historians question.

The Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics reported in 1870:

An article about Betsy Ross and the first American flag, Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics newspaper article 16 April 1870
Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 16 April 1870, page 1

This article, based on a presentation made by William J. Canby to the Pennsylvania Historical Society, reported:

“The first American flag, however, according to the design and approval of Congress, was made by Mrs. Elizabeth Ross. Three of her daughters still live in our vicinity to confirm this fact, founding their belief, not upon what they saw, for it was many years before they were born, but upon what their mother had often told them. A niece of this lady, Mrs. Margaret Boggs, aged ninety-five years, now lives in Germantown, and is conversant with the fact.”

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