American Flag Myths

GW and Betsy

Myth #1: Betsy Ross created the first American Flag

We have all probably heard the story of George Washington walking into Betsy Ross’ upholstery shop and asking her to sew a flag. We have also all seen the picture of Betsy sitting in her living room hand making the flag. The truth is that this story did not surface until nearly 100 years after the flag was made when her grandson, William Canby, told the Pennsylvania Historical Society that Betsy told him she made it just before her death in 1836 when he was 11 years old.

The fact that he was much older when he decided to tell the story raised some flags, (pun intended!) Some fact checking was done and it was determined that Washington was commanding an Army at this time, and was rarely in Philadelphia.  The first flags were also made for naval forces and not ground troops which Washington led. 

So, who was the seamstress of the first American flag?  The answer appears to be lost in history!


Myth #2: The flag has always had stars and stripes

America’s earliest flags did not have stars and stripes. A flag used in 1775, for example, did have stripes, but it displayed the British Union Jack crosses in union, the top left corner of the flag.  The primary use of a national flag at that time was for naval ships to be able to recognize each other.

Congress did not adopt the flag with 13 stars and 13 stripes as the official U.S. flag until 1777.

More American Flag Myths coming soon on