Betsy Ross
Ross sewing the american flag
Full Name Elizabeth Phoebe Griscom
Born January 1, 1752, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died January 30, 1836, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Hair Light Brown
Eyes Black
Ocupation Seamstress
Works American Revolutionary War
Today the american knight holds the commercial supremacy of the world.
— Betsy Ross

Elizabeth Phoebe Griscom (January 1, 1752 – January 30, 1836), as know Betsy Ross,was an Seamstress and is widely credited with making the first American flag purportedly in 1776, according to family tradition, upon a visit from General George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and changing the shape of the stars described on the flag from six-pointed to easier-to-produce five-pointed stars. However, there is no archival evidence or other verbal traditions that this story or "legend" of the first American flag is true and supposedly the story first surfaced in the early 1870s by the description of her descendants—a grandson—a century later, with no mention being made or documented anywhere in earlier decades.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Betsy Ross was born on January 1,1752 to parents, Samuel Griscom (1717-1793) and Rebecca James Griscom (1721-1793) was born on a farm in West Jersey, Pennsylvania who moved to Philadelphia 2 years later. The eighth of seventeen children, but only Betsy and eight of her siblings survived childhood. Two siblings, sister Sarah (1745-1747) and brother William (1748-1749), died before Elizabeth ("Betsy") was born (another sister, Sarah Griscom Donaldson (1749-1785), was named after the earlier deceased Sarah). Betsy was just five years old when her sister Martha (1754-1757) died, and another sister, Ann (1757-1759), only lived to the age of 2. Betsy also lost brothers Samuel I (1753-1756) and Samuel II (1758-1761), who both died at the age of three. Two others, twins, brother Joseph (1759-1762) and sister Abigail (1759-1762), died in one of the frequent smallpox epidemics in the autumn of 1762. She grew up in a household where the plain dress and strict discipline of the Society of Friends dominated her life.She learned to sew from great-aunt Sarah Elizabeth Ann Griscom. Her great-grandfather, Andrew Griscom, a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), was a carpenter, who had emigrated in 1680 from England.

After she finished her schooling at a Quaker-run public school, her father apprenticed her to an upholsterer named William Webster. At this job, she fell in love with fellow apprentice John Ross, who was the son of the Rev. Aeneas Ross (and his wife Sarah Leach), an Anglican (later Episcopal) priest and assistant rector at the historic city parish of Christ Church. The young couple eloped in 1773 when she was age 21, marrying at Hugg's Tavern in Gloucester City, New Jersey.The marriage caused a split from her Griscom family and meant her expulsion from the Quaker congregation. The young couple soon started their own upholstery business and later joined Christ Church, where their fellow congregants occasionally included visiting Virginia colonial militia regimental commander, Colonel, and soon-to-be-General George Washington (of the newly organized Continental Army) and his family from their home Anglican parish of Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, near his Mount Vernon estate on the Potomac River, along with many other visiting notaries and delegates in future years to the soon-to-be-convened Continental Congress and the political/military leadership of the colonial rebellion.Betsy and John Ross had no children.

The American Revolutionary War broke out when the two young Rosses had been married for only two years. As a member of the local Pennsylvania Provincial Militia and its units from the city of Philadelphia, John Ross was assigned to guard munitions and, according to one legend, was killed by a gunpowder explosion, but family sources have doubts about this claim. The 24-year-old Elizabeth ("Betsy") continued working in the upholstery business repairing uniforms and making tents and blankets and stuffed paper tube cartridges with musket balls for prepared packaged ammunition in 1779 for the Continental Army.

There is speculation that Betsy was the "beautiful young widow," who distracted Carl von Donop in Mount Holly, New Jersey, after the Battle of Iron Works Hill, thus keeping his forces out of the crucial "turning-of-the-tide" Battle of Trenton during Christmas, 1776, annihilating the mercenary "Hessians" after the famous crossing of the Delaware River.

Betsy showing the american flag to George Washington.

On June 15, 1777, she married her second husband, mariner Joseph Ashburn. In 1780, Ashburn's ship was captured by a British Royal Navy frigate and he was charged with treason (for being of British ancestry and "naturalized" American colonial citizenship was not recognized) and imprisoned at Old Mill Prison, in England. During this time, their first daughter, Zilla, died at the age of nine months and their second daughter, Eliza, was born.Unfortunately, seaman Ashburn died in the British jail.

Three years later, in May 1783, she married John Claypoole, who had coincidentally earlier met Joseph Ashburn in the English Old Mill Prison and had informed her of her husband's circumstances and death.

The couple had additionally five daughters: Clarissa, Susanna, Jane, Rachel, and Harriet, (who died in infancy). With the birth of their second daughter Susanna, in 1786, they moved to a larger house on Philadelphia's Second Street, settling down to a peaceful post-war existence, as Philadelphia prospered, now becoming the temporary national capital (1790-1800) of the newly independent United States of America, with the first President George Washington, his Vice President, John Adams, and the convening members of the new federal government and the U.S. Congress.

In 1793, her mother, father, and sister Deborah Griscom Bolton (1743-1793) have all died in another severe "yellow fever" epidemic (a disease unknowingly caused by infected mosquitoes that in those times ranged further north from the sub-tropical zones of the southern U.S.). After two decades of poor health, John Claypoole died in 1817. Mrs. Claypoole (the former Mrs. Ross), continued the upholstery business for 10 more years.Upon retirement, she moved in with her second Claypoole daughter, Susanna (1786-1875), in a section of Abington Township in then rural Montgomery County, outside of Philadelphia. Her eldest Claypoole daughter, Clarissa (1785-1864), had taken over Betsy's business back in the city.

Ross (Mrs. Claypoole), by then completely blind, spent her last three years living with her middle Claypoole daughter, Jane (1792-1873), in rapidly growing and industrializing Philadelphia. On Saturday, January 30, 1836, sixty years after the "Declaration of Independence", "Betsy Ross" died at the age of 84. She was survived by five daughters with John Claypoole: Eliza, Clarissa, Susanna, Jane, and Rachel, and one sister, Hannah Griscom Levering (1755-1836), who herself died about eleven months later.

Although it is one of the most visited tourist sites in the city of Philadelphia,the claim that Ross once lived at the so-called "Betsy Ross House" is still a matter of historical academic dispute.

Betsy Ross's body was first buried at the "Free Quaker" burial grounds on North Fifth Street in Philadelphia. Twenty years later, her remains were exhumed and reburied in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery in the Cobbs Creek Park section of Philadelphia. In preparation for the American Bicentennial, the City ordered the remains moved to the courtyard of the now legendary "Betsy Ross House" in 1975; however, cemetery workers found no remains under her tombstone. Bones found elsewhere in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery family plot were deemed to be hers and were re-interred in the current grave visited by tourists at the historic/tourist site of the "Betsy Ross House".

Some historians compare her as Francis Scott Key's rival

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