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:
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.
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.