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Antique flags in the Betsy Ross pattern are not known prior to the period of the Civil War, and only a handful of 19th century examples exist.  The pattern became increasingly popular in the first quarter of the 20th century, although less than one percent of antique 13 star flags produced in the early 20th century are found in this pattern.  This example is a rare small sewn example of the type.  It is marked on the hoist "Flag of Pa Estabrook's Boat Florida Capt Chas Estabrook 1904-1932".  Small 13 star flags of various star configurations produced during this period are commonly attributed as yacht or boat flags but this is the only example I'm aware of that definitively confirms its use as a private maritime flag.  The irregularity of the circle, evidence that the maker originally misjudged the arc and then adjusted the curve, adds a unique and charming folk quality to the flag. 

The pattern of 13 stars in a single wreath is forever linked with Betsy Ross. In popular culture, the pattern is commonly regarded as the first style of the American Flag, though historical evidence doesn't support the case.  The pattern first surface in popular culture in the mid 19th century when it was portrayed in Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's famous painting titled Washington Crossing the Delaware, which was widely reproduced and distributed through period prints.  The pattern's ties to the Revolution were again reinforced when copies of Archibald MacNeal Willard's famous Centennial era painting titled Spirit of '76 also showed the flag in this pattern.  In the 1870s, Betsy Ross' grandson, William J. Canby, promoted the myth of his grandmother making the first American flag after personal visit to Ross' home by George Washington in 1776.  Although it's known that Betsy Ross did supply flags during the war, the style of the flags she produced are unknown.  Another famous painting by Charles Weisgerber, painted in 1892, depicts Betsy Ross presenting George Washington, Robert Morris, and her husband, George Ross, with the completed flag in the Betsy Ross pattern.  Titled Birth of Our Nation's Flag, the painting solidified the legend of this style flag being first created by Betsy, and being the first example of an American Flag.  In fact, Weisgerber's painting even appeared on an issued U.S. postage stamp issued in 1952 to mark the 200th anniversary of Betsy Ross' birth.  Yet another painting by Edward P. Moran, titled Betsy Ross Shows Washington the Stars and Stripes, was immensely popular and widely reproduced in the early 20th century.

For a period of over 20 years, beginning in the early 1890s, Betsy Ross' grand daughter, Ms. Rachel Albright, and her great grand daughter, Sarah M. Wilson, produced souvenir flags in the East Wing of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  Their flags were also in the Betsy Ross pattern, and they proclaimed that this was in fact the pattern made by Betsy as the first flag.  Their work further solidified the Betsy Ross myth, and today their souvenir flags are highly sought after, due in part to their direct lineage and personal history to Betsy Ross and her descendents.
 

 

A silk souvenir flag in the Betsy Ross Pattern made in 1902 by Sarah M. Wilson, great granddaughter of Betsy Ross.  IAS-236.


 

Learn more about the many patterns of 13 Star Flags. Star Count:  13

Dates:  1904-1932

War Era:  None

Statehood:  Original 13 Colonies

Construction:  Cotton Stars on Wool Bunting

Catalog Number:  IAS-00242

   
   

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