I was recently inspired to visit Philadelphia, and specifically, the Betsy Ross House. What prompted me to take this trip was actually an Independence Day podcast from my favorite news source, SmartHer News! She did a special interview with the Betsy Ross Museum curator, and you will definitely want to take a listen here if you haven’t already. And to help you plan your own trip, here is everything you need to know about the Betsy Ross House!
Need to Know
The Betsy Ross House is open every day of the week from 10:00am-5:00pm, every day of the year. Tours are self-guided, but there is an audio tour available. You may even see Betsy at work on your tour!
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Betsy Ross’s house is located right in the heart of historic Philadelphia, at 239 Arch Street. Just three blocks from Independence National Park and the Liberty Center, steps from historic Elfreth’s Alley, and two blocks from Ben Franklin’s Grave, you’ll certainly be nearby during your visit, so you should stop in!
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General admission for adults is $8 per person; seniors, children, students and members of the military are $6 each; children three and under are FREE. If you’re interested in the audio tour, add $2 to the admission price.
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This home is nearly 300 years old, and there are stairs that are not accessible for strollers, wheelchairs, walkers, or motorized scooters. The Museum offers a “First Floor Tour,” which includes some walking and two steps up/down. The courtyard is open to the public and includes Betsy Ross’s grave, a seasonal medicinal herb garden, the museum store, and seating. See their website for more details.
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A Little History Before You Go
Betsy Wasn’t Usually a Flag Maker
She was an upholsterer! In fact, George Washington had commissioned Betsy Ross to make curtains for Mount Vernon before he approached her to make the flag.
It was Betsy’s Idea to Make Five-pointed Stars
The original design had six-pointed stars. Betsy, however, convinced George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross to accept five-pointed stars, which were easier to cut, easier to sew, and saved valuable time.
It’s One of the Oldest House Museums in the United States
It became an official, public museum in 1898. Prior to that, it was home to dozens of shops, shopkeepers, and artisans since Betsy Ross’s time.
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Highlights of the Tour
Seeing the Original Elements of the House
I’m a sucker for the 18th century’s architecture and decor! The house was a rental, and Betsy had only a room for herself, but the whole house is decorated and set up as it would have been while Betsy lived here. There are a few original pieces that belonged to her, and the rest are period pieces and reproductions. The tiles around the fireplace were particularly interesting for me!
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Understanding the Impact
Looking back now, we can definitely see the importance of the first flag (the first of many iterations!), but back then, flags were almost exclusively a military tool. People weren’t proudly waving any flags from their homes or anywhere else. Betsy was making a military essential for the Continental Army.
Also, she was committing treason against Great Britain! She couldn’t tell just anyone she was making a flag for what would become the United States of America. She couldn’t even tell her housemates or landlord! One of them might tell the wrong person, and then Betsy could hang. It was a very big deal, which is hard to grasp knowing what we know now!
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There are a handful of Betsy Ross interpreters here who will talk to you about her life, her work, and her famous flag! She will even show you how she makes the 5-pointed star and how she does her upholstery work. Feel free to ask questions.
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Want more? Check out all my Philadelphia blog posts on my dedicated United States Page!
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