Here in Philadelphia, there is no shortage of historic American sights to see. One of the most surprising during my visit to many of them was my visit to the Betsy Ross House.
The truth is, there isn’t much evidence that Betsy Ross met with General Washington. It’s generally agreed that the first national flag of the United States was actually the Grand Union Flag created by Margaret Manny. Sorry to be such a cold blanket this early in the blog post.
But as Mark Twain once supposedly said, “Why let the facts get in the way of a good story?”
Betsy Ross was made famous mostly by the stories of her descendants and “her” flag is a well-loved symbol of those early days of the United States. Betsy is a folk hero.
This little house was home to Betsy, her husband, her six children, and her niece. Betsy Ross lived here from 1776 to 1779.
The building’s front façade, with a large window on the first floor to display merchandise, and its proximity to the Delaware River, making it an ideal location for a business. In fact, the house served as both a business and a residence for many different shopkeepers and artisans for more than 150 years.
Here in the courtyard, you’ll make your way to the entrance of the home.
On the side of the house is a huge example of the flag Betsy is known for.
On the west side of the courtyard, you’ll find Betsy’s grave.
Betsy lived a long life. She worked until age 76 when she retired and moved out of the city to live with her daughter. Betsy died at age 84 and was buried in a family plot away from the home. She was relocated here in 1975.
Tickets are sold in the gift shop. Before you go into the real house, there is a fun little exhibit showing Betsy’s influence on pop culture. I liked this little Pez Betsy.
Stepping into the home, I am surprised to see actresses playing the parts of the homeowner (Betsy rented), Betsy herself, and a servant in the basement servant quarters. I assumed there would just be an audio tour with some boring plaques explaining each room. Not so!
The first room upstairs is the homeowner’s room. The actress here will tell you all about life in the late 18th century.
The next room is Betsy’s room. You’ll know it because her famous flag is there near the chair. She’s taken a break and has gone down to the Kitchen. We’ll get to meet her next!
Gotta respect that flag code – anybody clutching their pearls at the site of Betsy’s flag on the ground will be relieved by the information on this sign.
Down the skinny 1700s staircase, we enter Betsy’s upholstery shop.
Again, a live actress! She’s a pro at staying in character. None of my trap questions could trick her into using present-day language or acknowledge current events. I’m sure it gets annoying for these period characters to keep asking “what is that black rectangular thing in your hand?”
Betsy’s big contribution to the design of “her” flag is the inclusion of the five-pointed star. Many other flag makers were making an identical flag, but with six-pointed stars.
Actress Betsy is quick to point out how easy it is to make a five-pointed star vs. a six-pointed star. Betsy’s contribution to the flag was that she was just
lazier smarter than the other flag makers.
The self-guided tour ends in the servant’s quarters (basement) and kitchen.
It is so impressive to explore living history. Live acting made what could have been a ho-hum walkthrough experience into one I was telling friends and family about. I definitely recommend a visit!
The Betsy Ross House is (mostly) open daily 10 am – 5 pm, 6 pm in the summer, and til 8 pm for special days. Visit their website for the most up-to-date information.
Loved this ..How did they fit all those kids in that little house ?