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Quiz about Betsy Ross and the American Flag
Quiz about Betsy Ross and the American Flag

Betsy Ross and the American Flag Quiz


The story of Betsy Ross sewing her iconic flag is legendary, but for historians it's controversial. What is the truth about Betsy Ross and her connection to the American Revolution & the flags of a fledgling nation? Some answers may surprise you!

A multiple-choice quiz by gracious1. Estimated time: 4 mins.
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Author
gracious1
Time
4 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
396,899
Updated
Dec 03 21
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Average
Avg Score
7 / 10
Plays
255
Awards
Top 10% Quiz
Last 3 plays: Guest 79 (5/10), katie1945 (5/10), comark2000 (10/10).
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Question 1 of 10
1. Betsy Ross was raised in colonial America under what religion known for plain dress and strict discipline? Hint


Question 2 of 10
2. What was the primary occupation of Betsy Ross? (It was *not* seamstress!) Hint


Question 3 of 10
3. How did the legend of Betsy Ross and the American Flag enter the USA's national consciousness? Hint


Question 4 of 10
4. According to tradition, what future President headed the committee that visited Betsy Ross and worked out the design for the American Flag? Hint


Question 5 of 10
5. When did the committee to design a flag allegedly meet at Betsy Ross's house? Hint


Question 6 of 10
6. In the "Betsy Ross Flag", what comprises the distinguishing characteristic? Hint


Question 7 of 10
7. According to the Smithsonian Institution, the flag known as the "Betsy Ross Flag" is considered the first national flag of the fledgling United States of America.


Question 8 of 10
8. What do supporters of the veracity of the legend of Betsy Ross give as evidence?

Hint


Question 9 of 10
9. Historians who dispute the Betsy Ross legend make which of these assertions to support their case? Hint


Question 10 of 10
10. The Betsy Ross legend notwithstanding, which man claimed to be the designer of the American Flag, and even demanded compensation? Hint



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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. Betsy Ross was raised in colonial America under what religion known for plain dress and strict discipline?

Answer: Quaker

Elizabeth "Betsy" Gramsci was born in 1752 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the eighth of seventeen children by her Quaker parents. Her great-aunt, Sarah Elizabeth Ann Griscom, taught young Betsy how to sew. Her great-grandparents has emigrated in 1680 from England to the New World.

The colony of Pennsylvania had been founded by William Penn as a haven for Quakers, or the Society of Friends, who in the 17th and 18th centuries faced persecution and jailtime for their dissension with the Church of England, especially their rejection of ecclesiastical hierarchy. Young Betsy Gramsci received her education in Quaker-run state schools.
2. What was the primary occupation of Betsy Ross? (It was *not* seamstress!)

Answer: upholsterer

Although some sources describe Betsy Ross as a seamstress (and indeed, she did sew flags), she was by profession an upholsterer. With her father's help, Betsy Griscom became apprentice to upholsterer William Webster. During her apprenticeship she fell in love with fellow apprentice John Ross. In 1773 they eloped, whereupon the Gramscis and indeed the Quakers expelled Betsy Ross. The Rosses joined the Christ Church parish, the Episcopal church in Philadelphia where John's father served as assistant rector.

The young couple started their own upholstery business. After the Revolutionary War broke out, John Ross, a member of the local Pennsylvania Provincial Militia, was killed. At age 24, widowed Betsy Ross continued the upholstery business alone. During the Revolution, she repaired uniforms, made tents and blankets, and prepared packaged ammunition (paper tube cartridges stuffed with musket balls) for the Continental Army.

In addition to this work in the war effort, historian David Fischer believes Betsy Ross was the "beautiful young widow" who (tactically) distracted Colonel Carl von Donop. The colonel consequently kept his Hessian forces out of the pivotal Battle of Trenton on the morning of Boxing Day (December 26) 1776, which enabled George Washington to make a decisive victory after crossing the Delaware for a surprise attack.
3. How did the legend of Betsy Ross and the American Flag enter the USA's national consciousness?

Answer: Her grandson presented a research paper to the public.

Betsy Ross's grandson, William J. Canby, is primarily responsible for promoting the story at a time when the American people were eager for stories of the American Revolution. In 1870, Canby presented a paper to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in which he claimed that his grandmother had "made with her hands the first flag" of the USA. Canby learned this from his aunt Clarissa Sydney (Claypoole) Wilson in 1857, 20 years after Betsy Ross's death.

According to the National Museum of American History (Smithsonian), the story took hold in the years before the American Centennial (1876) because the public were eager for stories of the American Revolution, and they sought patriotic examples of girls as well as boys to serve as role models.

The primary documentation offered by Canby were affidavits by Rachel Fletcher, Ross's daughter by her second marriage; Sophia Hildebrant, Ross's granddaughter; and Margaret Boggs, Ross's niece.
4. According to tradition, what future President headed the committee that visited Betsy Ross and worked out the design for the American Flag?

Answer: George Washington

According to Betsy Ross's descendants, George Washington led a flag committee that included Robert Morris (a business partner of Betsy's late husband John) and George Ross (John's uncle and a signer of the Declaration of Independence). At Ross's shop in Philadelphia, they discussed the flag's design, and Ross accepted the job of constructing the flag.
5. When did the committee to design a flag allegedly meet at Betsy Ross's house?

Answer: The year the United States declared independence (1776)

The flag committee headed by George Washington took place, by tradition, at Betsy Ross's Philadelphia upholstery shop in late spring of 1776. This would have been a year before the Second Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act of June 14, 1777. The act reads: "Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."

Detractors of the Ross legend notice that this resolution was the first documented discussion or debate by Congress about a national flag. Supporters remark, however, that George Washington was indeed in Philadelphia in springtime in 1776. Whilst there, Washington did serve on a committee with (the late) John Ross's uncle George Read, and Congress approved $50,000 for the acquisition of tents and "sundry articles" for the Continental Army. Could this not have been in part for Betsy Ross?
6. In the "Betsy Ross Flag", what comprises the distinguishing characteristic?

Answer: 13 stars arranged in a circle in a blue field

Whether historically accurate or not, the version of the American flag with thirteen horizontal stripes, alternating red and white, and in the canton (upper left corner) a circle of 13 white stars on a blue field, has traditionally been called the Betsy Ross Flag. On her own initiative, it is believed, Betsy Ross altered the flag committee's design from six-pointed to five-pointed stars for simplicity's sake.

The flag with a canton resembling the Union Jack (the British flag) is called the Continental Colors or the Grand Union Flag, likely made by Margaret Manny. The flag with the snake is the Gadsden flag. The flag with 15 stripes (for the addition of Vermont and Kentucky to the Union) is the Great Garrison flag or the Star-Spangled Banner, sewn by Mary Pickersgill, assisted by a black indentured servant named Grace Wisher.
7. According to the Smithsonian Institution, the flag known as the "Betsy Ross Flag" is considered the first national flag of the fledgling United States of America.

Answer: False

Smithsonian curator Grace Rogers Cooper found that the earliest recorded use of the Betsy Ross Flag was in 1792. Even Betsy Ross's grandson, William J. Canby, admitted to the Philadelphia Historical Society in 1870 that other versions of the American flag were being made by other upholsterers in Philadelphia at the time he asserted that his grandmother was making the iconic flag, so it is difficult to pinpoint which was first.

According to the U.S. National Park Service and other federal government agencies, the first national flag was actually the Grand Union Flag, also called the Continental Colors. It has the familiar 13 red and white stripes of the modern U.S. flag, but instead of a blue field with starts in the canton (upper left corner), there is a Union Jack (the flag of Britain). It was manufactured by Margaret Manny, a Philadelphian milliner, for the Continental Navy, as early as 1774, though it was not flown until 1775 by John Paul Jones aboard the USS Alfred. This fact is less celebrated, some historians speculate, because unlike Ross, Manny lacked articulate friends and family to publicize her story.
8. What do supporters of the veracity of the legend of Betsy Ross give as evidence?

Answer: both of these

Ellie Wheeler, daughter of portrait master Thomas Sully, painted a picture depicting Betsy Ross sewing the iconic flag with the thirteen stars in a circle. If the 1851 date of the painting is correct, it predates by two decades the research paper presented by Ross's grandson William J. Candy to the Philadelphia Historical Society in 1870. Additionally, the Pennsylvania State Navy Board paid large sums of money to Betsy Ross for manufacturing flags.

Whether or not the Betsy Ross Flag was the first flag, supporters contend that these facts support the claim that Ross made a flag in the design bears her namesake (the flag with a circle of thirteen stars in a blue canton).
9. Historians who dispute the Betsy Ross legend make which of these assertions to support their case?

Answer: There is no evidence that Washington even met Betsy Ross.

There is no written account of Washington ever setting foot in Betsy Ross's shop, or that he led a flag committee, or even that such a flag committee existed in 1776! None of the members of this committee -- George Ross, Robert Morris, or Washington -- wrote any letters or diary entries discussing a national flag in 1776.

At least one source claims that a delegation of Indians petitioned Congress for a flag, but this has no bearing on the Ross legend. (See Boleslaw Mastai and Marie-Louise D'Otrange, "The Stars and Stripes: The American Flag as Art and as History from the Birth of the Republic to the Present, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973).

Betsy Ross did not die during the Revolution, although her second husband did. Joseph Ashburn was captured by the British and executed for treason as he was born in Britain (they did not recognize naturalized American citizenship). (Betsy Ross married a third time, to John Claypoole, who had met Ashburn in the English Old Mill Prison).

Betsy Ross's daughter, Rachel Fletcher, signed an affidavit in 1871 asserting that a flag committee headed by Washington did meet with and commission her mother, who "went diligently to work upon her flag and soon finished it, and returned it, the first star-spangled banner that ever was made, to her employers" and "that it was run up to the peak of one of the vessels belonging to one of the committee then lying at the wharf, and was received with shouts of applause by the few bystanders who happened to be looking on."

Fletcher further asserted "that [Ross] was previously well acquainted with Washington, and that he had often been in her house in friendly visits, as well as on business." Betsy Ross had even "embroidered ruffles for his shirt bosoms and cuffs, and...it was partly owing to his friendship for her that she was chosen to make the flag."
10. The Betsy Ross legend notwithstanding, which man claimed to be the designer of the American Flag, and even demanded compensation?

Answer: Francis Hopkinson

Francis Hopkinson, a New Jersey delegate to the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, played a role in designing seals for various departments of the U.S. federal government. In 1780, Hopkinson petitioned the Board of Admiralty for payment (in the form of a barrel of wine!) for his work in the design of the American Flag, referring to the flag known today as the Betsy Ross Flag. The board denied his petition, however, on the grounds that "he was not the only one consulted", though they did not enumerate further. Both supporters and detractors of the Ross legend have used these facts to support their positions!

Betsy Ross survived her third husband John Claypoole, who passed away in 1817. She retired ten years later, when her daughter Clarissa took over the family upholstery business. On 30 January 1836, sixty years after the Declaration of Independence and the purported creation of the iconic flag that bears her name, Betsy Ross died at the age of 84.
Source: Author gracious1

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