Betsy Ross Biography

(Woman Who Made The First American Flag)

Birthday: January 1, 1752 (Capricorn)

Born In: Gloucester City, New Jersey, United States

Betsy Ross was an American woman credited with making the first American flag, known as the Betsy Ross flag. She was a fourth-generation American born in Gloucester City, New Jersey. She and her husband John Ross owned an upholstery business and it is believed that President George Washington requested Betsy to make the first American flag. Ross making the first American flag has been disputed by many scholars due to the lack of proper evidence. This information was shared with the public by her grandson 50 years after her death. The story was first published in Harper's Monthly. According to a pamphlet, she was also credited for coming up with the name United States of America, but there is no evidence to back this claim as well. She married thrice in her life and had many children and grandchildren. Although she is primarily credited for creating the first flag, many scholars have stated that her legacy should be more about what inspired working women during the American Revolution. The Betsy Ross House is a popular tourist attraction in Philadelphia that honors her life.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Elizabeth Griscom Ross

Died At Age: 84


Spouse/Ex-: John Claypoole (m. 1783–1817), John Ross (m. 1773–1776), Joseph Ashburn (m. 1777–1782)

father: Samuel Griscom (1717–1793)

mother: Rebecca James Griscom (1721–1793)

siblings: Abigail Griscom, Ann Griscom, Deborah Griscom Bolton, George Griscom, Hannah Griscom Levering, Joseph Griscom, Martha Griscom, Mary Griscom Morgan, Rachael Griscom, Rebecca Griscom, Samuel Griscom I, Samuel Griscom II, Sarah Griscom, Sarah Griscom Donaldson, Susannah Griscom Doane Satterthwaite, William Griscom

children: Aucilla Ashburn, Clarissa Sidney Claypoole Wilson, Elizabeth Ashburn Claypoole Silliman, Harriet Claypoole, Jane Claypoole Canby, Rachel Claypoole Jones Fletcher, Susannah Claypoole Satterthwaite

Born Country: United States

American Women Capricorn Women

Died on: January 30, 1836

place of death: Philadelphia

U.S. State: New Jersey

Childhood & Early Life

Betsy Ross was born Elizabeth Griscom on January 1, 1752, in Gloucester City, New Jersey, United States. Her great-grandfather was a carpenter who had reached New Jersey in 1680 from England. Betsy had 16 siblings; she was the eighth of 17 children.

She attended Quaker schools and was taught sewing and other crafts in her early life. Betsy finished her schooling at the age of 17 and later went on to work with a local upholsterer. This is where she met her future husband, John Ross.

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Betsy Ross’ then-husband John, with whom she ran an upholstery business, was killed in 1776 at the start of the American Revolution. The gunpowder explosion happened while he was on militia duty at the Philadelphia waterfront. After his death, Betsy took over the business completely and made flags for Pennsylvania.

Around May or early June of 1776, she reportedly had visitors from the Committee of Three: George Washington, George Ross, and Robert Morris. George Washington was a frequent visitor before he received the command of the army.

Betsy Ross had sewn many shirt ruffles and other pieces of clothing for him. Washington is believed to have asked whether she could make a flag out of the rough drawing they carried with them. Washington also redrew the flag design and added stars of five points instead of six.

After the Philadelphia Campaign

Betsy and her family sewed upholstery, made flags and banners for the “new” Philadelphia after the Philadelphia Campaign. She created six 18-by-24-foot garrison flags in 1810 which was sent to New Orleans.

In 1811, she made 27 flags for the Indian Department. Just around that time, many other flag makers in Philadelphia came into the scene, including Rebecca Young. Betsy worked until 1827 and she also brought in many of her immediate family members into the business.

Family & Personal Life

Betsy married John Ross, an Anglican, when she was just 17. Since Betsy was a Quaker, she was not allowed to marry someone outside of her religion. In 1772, the couple eloped and married, following which she was expelled from both her family and the Quaker congregation in Philadelphia.

After John's death, Betsy Ross married Joseph Ashburn, a sailor. In 1780, Joseph also passed away after he was captured by the British on a ship and died in prison the next year.

In 1783, Betsy married John Claypoole. He had been in prison with Joseph. He later met Betsy and fell in love with her. John passed away after a long illness in 1817.

Betsy Ross had many children and grandchildren.

Death & Legacy

On January 30, 1836, Betsy Ross died at the age of 84 in Philadelphia. She was completely blind in her final years and passed away due to natural causes.

Her remains were buried in three different locations, first at the Free Quaker burial ground in North Fifth Street in Philadelphia. Her remains were later buried at Mt. Moriah Cemetery. Her final burial was at Arch Street, which is adjacent to the Betsy Ross House.

The information of Betsy Ross making the first American flag was shared with the public by her grandson 50 years after her death. Many scholars still are not convinced it was Betsy who created the first flag. Following her death, she had a major Philadelphia bridge named after her.

See the events in life of Betsy Ross in Chronological Order

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