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The original American flag folklore aside, I have a question about the current-day Betsy Ross house that can be seen today in Philadelphia. It was my understanding the house was never owned (only tenants) by John Claypoole and his wife Betsy, but my wife said there was a document she saw at the house stating it was owned by John and upon his death it was included in the bequest to Betsy, whereby it was owned by her … a bit unique for the times.  Can you help clarify?


Roger Dill

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Dear Mr. Dill,

According to those who maintain it, neither Betsy Ross nor any of her five husbands owned the house that bears her name, which was built around 1840. They rented the premises between 1773 and 1786, running an upholstery business from it as well as residing there. Betsy, a Pennsylvania Quaker, was expelled from the Friends when she married Anglican John Ross in 1772, after which they rented the house. John was killed in a gunpowder explosion while on militia duty in 1776, but Betsy, a skilled seamstress and canny businesswoman, kept the business going and made enough to keep up with the rent. She finally moved out in 1786, but in 1898 it was acquired by the Betsy Ross Memorial Association, which keeps it renovated to this day.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History

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