In honor of flag day, I have chosen to share my experience visiting the Betsy Ross House. Whether you live near the city or are planning a visit, it is something to put on the bucket list.
The Betsy Ross House is located at 239 Arch Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is open year round for tours. Special events are happening all the time. Check the website for details. This week is special of course because it is flag week. Flag day, June 14th has been celebrated here for many years, this year a naturalization ceremony will take place and 13 people will be sworn in as citizens of the United States.
Betsy Ross's formal maiden name was Elizabeth Griscom and her family arrived in the new world one year before William Penn founded Philadelphia. They were also a Quaker family.
Betsy was the eighth of seventeen children born to Samuel Griscom and Rebecca James Griscom and was educated in the Quaker public schools.
Betsy first married John Ross a non Quaker and was shunned by her congregation and family for marrying outside the faith. John was the son of an assistant Episcopal minister at Christ's Church. The couple eloped and were married in Hugg's Tavern in New Jersey. Betsy was 21 years old. Ross died from injuries suffered during the IndependenceWar and Betsy was a childless widow at 24 years of age. Four months later, General George Washington approached Betsy to make flags for the revolutionary cause. She also made uniforms and cartridges for the Continental Army along with her other business ventures in the upholstery shop.
Betsy's shop was on the ground level of her home located just inside her front door. She discreetly made flags on the upstairs of her home due to the fact that if she were caught participating in the revolution she could be charged with treason and the punishment was hanging. As explained by the woman sitting in the upholstery shop, Betsy was not a foolish woman.
In 1777, she stitched the first Stars and Stripes for naval vessels defending Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War.
Betsy was able to maintain the upholstery business started by her union with John Ross after his death on her own, which was a rare experience for a woman of those times. She was married for the 2nd time to Joseph Asburn in 1777. John was a mariner during the war and his ship was captured in 1780 and he later died in prison at Plymouth, England in 1782. They had two daughters.
Betsy was married one more time to John Claypoole and they had five daughters. Elizabeth Ross, Asburn, Claypoole out lived all three of husband. Her gravestone along with John Claypoole's sits inside the courtyard next to the Betsy Ross House.
You are not permitted to take any photographs with the intention of preserving original artifacts, but are permitted to photograph Betsy, real name Elizabeth as she proudly announces once you enter her "space", the upholstery room. I enjoyed listening to her speak to the school children present and command respect. She has mine. Gutsy gal.
My recommendation: Take the virtual tour online, not everything is marked. I did not take the audio tour, that may point everything out but by all means go and visit because in my opinion, there is nothing like the real thing. Betsy's glasses are there, a beautiful piece of furniture, a chest of drawers that was in her family for years, Chippendale chairs, original Deflt tile over the fireplace. There are many things to see and experience. The self-guided fee is only $5 and $7 for the audio tour. I am sure the low fee goes towards maintaining a very special location in our nation's history and I feel it is worth it.
The Library of Congress has a photograph of what the building looked like in 1909 at this link, Birthplace of Old Glory.
Flag Laws and Regulations
Library of Congress
Names to reference as preserves of our countries history:
A. Atwater Kent
Of course there is a dispute as to whether this is the house Betsy Ross lived in and if she indeed created the first flag. I find it plausible because our country was founded on dispute was it not? Instead of arguing, we should just appreciate that a small fraction of these buildings that housed so much of our countries history still stand and that we have our freedom.
Just around the corner, at Elfreth's Alley flies the British flag. We live in harmony now and set out the tea when the British are coming.