According to an oft repeated story, Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag with 13 stars in a circle after convincing General Washington that the stars should have five points, rather than six. This has led to the long-standing belief that Betsy Ross both designed and created the American flag. The problem with this story is that although Betsy Ross was a young seamstress who made flags for the Pennsylvania Navy (each state had their own Navy at the time) there is no evidence that she was involved in the creation of the American flag.
The story connecting her to the Stars and Stripes didn’t even appear until about 1876, when it was written by her grandson. There is no other document or recorded conversation linking Washington and Ross, or linking Ross to the creation of the first flag featuring the constellation of stars. What this myth obscures is the fact the Betsy Ross was one of several seamstresses in Philadelphia who sewed flags for regimental colors and ships, as well as repaired uniforms and tents.
The myth also obscures documented evidence that Betsy Ross worked on the Grand Union Flag, which flew over the Continental Army headquarters and Cambridge during the siege of Boston. The Grand Union Flag combined the 13 red and white stripes with the Union Jack in the canton. It may be that this was the flag to which Ross’s grandson referred when he mentioned her work on the first American flag.
There is no doubt that the young Betsy Ross contributed significantly to the American war effort during the Revolutionary War, including helping to make paper cartridges for muskets and blankets for the troops, as well as signal flags and ensigns for ships.
But the story of Betsy Ross designing and making the first American flag at the behest of George Washington is part of American Folklore.