The Flag, Betsy Ross, and my man Francis Hopkinson

You mean to tell me Betsy Ross did not make the first flag?  Stand by.

The story of Betsy Ross goes a lot like the story of me approaching Jay Butler to make some Ivy Style shoes.  Washington comes up to Ross and says, “Can you help me make a flag?”   (That is SO hands on by the way.)  She says yes, he pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket with a design on it.  There is remarkably little information on how that piece of paper came to be and who drew it, but that is probably because there is remarkably little evidence supporting the whole Betsy Ross tale anyway.    But as the story goes, she sews this:


Well, as the story goes, she sews this with a little help from her friends.


Speaking of lack of evidence, it turns out that the Colonists never even heard the Ross story.  The first recorded telling of the story came from Ms. Ross’ probably well-intentioned grandson William Canby.  He was giving a speech to a group in Pennsylvania, and without any corroboration said something to the effect of, “George Washington was a friend of like my step-grandfather or something who wound up blowing his head off in a powder keg accident (those happen) named George Ross, who then passed it on the my grandmother Betsy.”

Except, not so much.  Allow me to introduce my man, Francis Hopkinson.


Francis Hopkinson who, in addition to probably designing the first American Flag, appears to have been an early pioneer of the mullet. There is little doubt he would have worn those brown sneaker/shoe things were they available.


Hopkinson was a poet, a musician, a signer of the Declaration, and a government symbol designer of the highest order.  He did the state seal for New Jersey (hi Princeton).   I won’t bore you with the details but historians note this.  While there is no corroboration whatsoever for the Ross story, there exists a letter from Hopkinson to the Board of Admiralty.   This letter contains two conclusive (at least in my mind) data points that establish Hopkinson as the first designer/sewer (somebody in the comments correct “sewer” I dare you) of the American flag.    First, he flat out says he was.  Ok, not conclusive.  BUT.  As payment, he requests “a quarter cask of the public wine.”   I have known a number of designers, and that sounds about right.   You don’t ask for wine for something you didn’t do.

You need more?  Not convinced?  Ok.  A few weeks later, a perhaps now hopped-up Hopkinson (he did not get the wine) (the pun on his name was intentional) writes again, this time asking for $3,985.   That is a big ticket for flag design, if you are conducting a fraud.  It isn’t like that amount was gonna go unnoticed, right?

Hopkinson didn’t get that either.  But you never know until you ask.


This was the Grand Union. To you and me, a grocery store. To America, this was the flag raised in 1776.  I find that kinda weird.  It is like going on a date in a tee shirt with a picture of your ex.  But I also find going on dates in tee shirts weird.


This is called the Ross because a brother cannot get a break.


This is called the Bennington, it flew over stores and was created in Bennington, Vermont. I include it to support the theory that slapping copy fonts on fabric is not the sole purview of Brooks. Damn, did I say that?


Back when there were only 34 states. If I didn’t tell you that, would you have counted the stars on your own or just thought we were wrapping this up?







2 Comments on "The Flag, Betsy Ross, and my man Francis Hopkinson"

  1. Hardbopper | June 30, 2022 at 8:21 pm |

    Thanks for the early reminder. I’ll wear a vintage BB necktie identical to this one to Church on Sunday. Navy blue 3/2 sack suit, WOCBD, Vintage 1960s longwings. Totally trad.

    Whoever designed the flags must have been pretty good at math and geometry. Try dividing a circle by 13. That project must have been a group effort.

  2. Earl P. Williams, Jr. | September 5, 2022 at 2:17 pm |

    Re:”The Flag, Betsy Ross, and My Man Francis Hopkinson” by JB, June 30, 2022

    This article is spot-on. Scholars now credit Francis Hopkinson as the American flag’s designer. (Source: Leepson, Marc. “Flag: An American Biography.” St. Martin’s Griffin. 2005. p. 33.) Last year, the Flag Manufacturers Association of America (FMAA) issued the following Tweet on February 4, 2021:

    FMAA@FMAA_USA – Feb 4
    #FlagFact: The designer of the American flag was Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence as a delegate from New Jersey.

    Submitted by Earl P. Williams, Jr., U.S. flag historian (paleovexillologist)

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