4. Assessing the Damage

Symbolically and culturally, the American flag, the Stars and Stripes, remains a significant part of many lives. Most Americans, when asked who created their first flag, would probably answer “Betsy Ross” (1752–1836).1 In 1870, her grandson George Canby (1829–1907) documented and popularized that mistaken idea: “Who, when she was the widow of John Ross, made the first American Flag containing stars.”2

1. Based on an informal poll of 47 colleagues and their families.

2. See Canby (1909).

In all likelihood, however, Francis Hopkinson (1737–1791) designed the first American flag. (Hopkinson was also an artist and signatory of the Declaration of Independence.) The first Stars and Stripes was probably made in 1777 during the ...

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