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Birthplace of Old Glory: 1900

Birthplace of Old Glory: 1900

Circa 1900. "Betsy Ross House, Philadelphia." Our second look at Jack the horse. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Below is the same view from October of 2013.

Before historic preservation was cool

From Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn:

"As the nation approached its first centennial in 1875, the search was on for a female hero of the Revolution. Philadelphia had two candidates--Lydia Darragh, an intrepid and effective spy, and Betsy Ross, who sewed American flags and might have sewn the first one. But Darragh's house on Second Street was replaced by a hotel, so that left Ross. A campaign to save her house hustled pennies from the nation's schoolchildren. Darragh was forgotten by history. Betsy Ross entered legend."

The photo with this caption in Brand's book is probably from 1876 or earlier. The Samuel Drake building is there, but the Berger Brothers building is not. The Ross house has either a cedar shake or a slate roof, not the standing seam metal shown here. The ground floor tenant is a tailor shop, and there is the winter skeleton of a tree in front, rather than utility poles.

Coach lamps

Carey & Co. haven't equipped their neighbors Hunter & Dickson and Chas. F. Mitchell with their products. Hmm.

Not really

Not only is there no evidence Betsy Ross had anything to do with the first flag, but existing evidence suggests that because of address changes over the years, this was never her house. A powerful myth, however.

The fire mark is still there

It represented the fire insurance company, the Philadelphia Contributionship, started by Benjamin Franklin in 1752.

Still there?

It sure is:

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Hardware District

It's interesting how businesses of the same type used to self segregate in the cities of the time. Today the modern versions of the products sold on this street would be in a single big box "home improvement" store.

Lots of changes

The house today doesn't look anything like this. Many many renovations over the years it seems.

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