The Life and Letters of John Paul Jones - Vol. 2

By Anna De Koven | Go to book overview

APPENDIX D
THE FIRST AMERICAN FLAG

Various traditions purport to tell the story of the making of the first flag which bore the stars and stripes. The best authenticated come from the descendants of Betsey Ross, of Philadelphia, who assert that she made it at the suggestion and under the directions of Washington. Another Philadelphia legend claims that it was made by a Mrs. Austin, of that city. A. C. Buell in his "Life of Paul Jones," narrates still another story regarding its construction by a company of Portsmouth maidens which he called the "Helen Seavey Quilting Party." Mr. Buell narrates that the young bride, Helen Seavey, sacrificed the blue breadths of her wedding-gown to make the field of the banner. The names of other members of other well-known Portsmouth families were also given as having assisted in the making of the flag. Present residents of that colonial town who have carefully investigated birth records and historical authorities, have declared they have been unable to find that any of these patriotic maidens ever existed in the flesh, or that the quilting party ever took place. The flag, however made, and whenever for the first time displayed, was not hoisted by Paul Jones at the mast-head of the Ranger on the 4th of July, 1777, as stated by Mr. Buell, for the reason that Jones was in Boston on that day. In this connection it is proper to print Mr. Buell's own letter in regard to the origin of the story he had promulgated. This letter was written to Mr. George Canby, of Philadelphia, a grandnephew of Betsey Ross, and author of a small volume containing letters and other confirmatory documents in regard to Mrs. Ross's construction of the flag. Mr. Canby attempted to interview Mr. Buell in regard to the authorities he possessed, which might substantiate his story on the

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