Did you experience a feeling of sadness or disbelief when you learned there was a strong possibility that Betsy Ross did not make the first American Flag? I surely did. Talk about disappointment. I mean, there were books, plays, paintings and movies about her.

The question “who made the first American flag” was even on school exams. To doubt this was like finding Santa Claus was fake and Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb. Well, in fact, Santa is fake and Edison didn’t.

Thus, I decided to dig around, and folks, the maybes and could bes and I think sos run throughout the written history of Betsy Ross. I’ll try to sort it out here, but oh, I am still stunned from it all. She is an icon! Could it possibly be that maybe she didn’t sit down one day with a few bolts of red, white and blue material, and create our beloved American flag?

Her married name was Elizabeth Ross, and she was nicknamed “Betsy.” Her claim to fame was her supposedly being asked to design and sew the first American flag around the time of the Revolution, by none other than Gen. George Washington.

Did he really stop by her home and request she design and create the first American flag? Is all that true? I so want it to be. Mrs. Ross was a serious seamstress for certain. I guess many women were back then.

Elizabeth Betsy Griscom was born to Quaker parents in Philadelphia in 1752, the eighth child of 17. After attending a Quaker school, she was apprenticed to an upholsterer named William Webster who taught her to sew furniture covers, mattresses and window blinds.

Eventually, at the age of 21, she crossed the river to New Jersey, to elope with John Ross, a fellow apprentice. Quakers did not look kindly on church members running off and eloping, so naturally, they expelled the young couple.

So Betsy and John opened up their own upholstery shop and then John decided to join the militia. Alas he died within two years either from a gunpowder explosion or illness. No one knows for sure.

It’s said that during the American Revolution, Betsy began to sew flags. It was around this time, 1776 or 1777, that George Washington allegedly came to visit the young widow and asked her to design a new flag for a new nation.

Mrs. Ross agreed and not only designed and sewed the flag, it was written in a pamphlet that she came up with the name, “the United States of America.” There is absolutely no real evidence to support this claim, but it just goes to show you what the press can do with a person who’s achieved a little fame. I guess, this is evidence of tabloids at work even in the 1700s.

Anyway, during the supposed chat with Gen. Washington, he asked for the 13 stars to have six points each. Betsy told him it’d be a lot easier with just five points because, clever woman, she knew if she folded the white material in a certain way she could make a five-pointed star with just one scissors’ snip.

She appeared to be into time management, and evidently the good General knew not to mess with a smart young seamstress-upholsterer woman who knew her snips. So, the father of our country agreed on five points.

Ross allegedly designed the first American flag with 13 stars on a sea of dark blue, and seven red and six white stripes representing the original 13 colonies in our very young country.

I’m not sure who suggested the colors of the American flag, but history books tell us that the chosen colors meant thus: White for purity and innocence; red for hardiness and valor and blue vigilance, perseverance and justice.

A lot to live up to and a lot to be proud of.

And it’s actually possible Betsy may have been acquainted with Washington since it was reported he worshiped at the same church she attended. It has also been established that Ross did indeed make flags for a living, as evidenced by a receipt for the sum of more than 14 pounds paid to her on May 29, 1777, by the Pennsylvania State Navy Board for making “ships colours.”

And it’s known that less than a month later, on June 14, 1777, Congress officially adopted the Stars and Stripes as our national flag. It is also recorded that one Francis Hopkinson from New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, may have had a hand in the design of the flag. He designed seals for the U.S. government, so it’s possible he had some involvement.

Things get a little foggy from here on in. Well, at least for me. But somewhere along this confusing bit of American history, our flag was made, and in my opinion, it is beautiful, and quite thrilling to see it snapping in the wind anywhere.

But folks, no matter who put our flag together, it still has enormous meaning for many. I know when I grew up my father demanded that our flag, put up on a very high flagpole in our back yard, never ever be permitted to touch the ground, and we paid attention.

It stayed up there, lit up at night, until Hurricane Hazel in 1954 blew it to the ground. I recall my patriotic father roaring out into the storm to get Old Glory up out of the mud and to bring it tenderly into our home to dry.

I understand all the controversy around our flag these days. I get it. There are those who are horrified about these issues, but after all, thousands of people died so that folks can have the right to peacefully protest things in our country. Happily, these issues did not exist when Betsy Ross did or did not sew the first American flag.

In 1906, the famous songwriter/patriot George M. Cohan pretty much summed up the feelings of lots of Americans when they see our flag flying.

“You’re a grand old flag
“You’re a high-flying flag
“And forever in peace may you wave
“You’re the emblem of
“The land I love
“The home of the free and the brave.”

Do any of you know the rest of that song? I do, too.

So thank you Betsy Ross or whomever it was that made our flag. We’re forever grateful.