Nancy Roman

Happy July 4 – Where I Diss Betsy Ross

A week or so ago, I wrote a piece about unsolved mysteries that haunt me.

At the time, I was referring to assassination questions that need to be answered. But I also mentioned that in a future post, I would discuss a few minor trivial mysteries that occasionally bug me.

Here’s one.

When I was about nine years old, my school adopted this self-learning program for Reading. The curriculum included these little booklets, each with stories at various reading levels, and the students individually moved through the booklets, answered content and vocabulary questions, and advanced to the next level. I don’t think it was a bad method, as each kid could progress at his own pace. Most of the stories, though, were incredibly boring.

But one story interested me. It was a story about Betsy Ross. George Washington asked her to make the first American flag. I do not know how they knew each other, except that she was an upholsterer who resided in Philadelphia, and it appears Washington attended the same church when the new government was seated in Philly. I also read in a very erudite source (Wiki) that she was quite attractive. So it is certainly feasible that George said, “Hey Babe, how about you put down that sofa cover and check out my flag pole?”

Anyway, my 3rd grade story retold the now-famous legend that Washington wanted a six-pointed star, but Betsy wanted a five-pointed star. Washington said that a five-pointed star would be too difficult to reproduce en masse, and Betsy said, “Nonsense, GW, I can make a five-pointed star by folding the material and making just one cut.” And she did, and hence the American flag has five-pointed stars.

Well, on and off over the next few years (55 years to be a little more exact), I thought about a one-cut five-pointed star. I did not see how that could be possible.

It was my little mystery.

Of course, when I decided to write about this puzzle, I figured I would ask all you smart people to figure it out for me. But then I did something dumb, and ruined my story.

I You-tubed. (I know google is now a verb, and you-tubing is certainly about to be one.) And it took me 37 seconds to find multiple sources to cut a five pointed star with one cut.

Here’s the one I like best. (There is a simpler one, but this one refers to Betsy.)



So 55 years later, mystery solved. As simple as that. It is really quite a let-down, to tell you the truth.

I tried it. I failed several times, and swore more than several times, but it works. Here’s my star, which came out a bit chubby, but it’s definitely a star.




But a couple of points:

  • As this nice lady in the video points out, there is a lot of waste.
  • It might have been a bit complicated for Ms. Ross (actually Elizabeth Griscom Ross Ashburn Claypoole) to get each star perfect and identical .
  • What is so hard about using a six-pointed star, like a Star of David? Just 2 equilateral triangles, with one turned upside down over the other. Very little waste. And you could then make a template for a simple triangle and cut multiple stars at one time.

Conclusion:  Betsy Ross was a little show-off.

Conclusion #2:  The Internet ruins everything.


PS – I wrote this piece before Mr. Trump used a Star Of David in a derogatory tweet.  And Mrs. Ross certainly could have used that star before it had any negative connotation at all.


  1. Everybody who was anybody showed off in front of. GW!


  2. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.


  3. I would have never taken the time to figure that out. Thanks for doing the legwork.


    • It took me no time at all – that the pleasure – and the curse – of the internet.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I like the second conclusion 😀 It’s an amazing post as always 🙂


  5. Well, ya learn something new every day. I had no idea. I’d never heard the story of the five-pointed vs six-pointed star. Thanks for the enlightenment. YOU are a star!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was surprising to see it repeated on Wiki and other sources. I thought the story was completely untrue even at 10 years old. And it does appear that the story is probably untrue, but it’s a legend. Plus – you CAN cut a star with one cut. I’m going to memorize how to do it, and use it to win bets at the bar. (which is probably what Betsy used it for.)


      • It would be a great parlor trick! I watched the video; it didn’t seem that hard.


  6. Hilarious as always…loved the alleged conversation between GW and BR on meeting/making the flag. 🙂


  7. Almost spit my coffee out all over my iPad when I read, “check out my flag-pole!”
    Brilliant! May the Fourth be with you!


  8. 😀 😀 Hilarious. This had me in stitches, ““Hey Babe, how about you put down that sofa cover and check out my flag pole?”
    Cute story. GW wasn’t as staid as I imagined and Betsy might have been a show off–hey, you have to impress the pants of the big guy, right? 😉


    • I think the folks back in those days were probably pretty raunchy. Without the internet, they didn’t have much else to do.


  9. Oopsie. OFF the big guy.


  10. I remember those self-learning reading packets! Thanks for the memory.


    • The Betsy Ross story is the only one I remember, though I read hundreds. There is one I vaguely recall about a horse jumping over a stream… the word “galloping” was weird to me for some reason and that stands out.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I learned how to cut five point and six point stars in elementary school. Well, we called the six point ones snowflakes and cut many of them at Christmas. I still remember how to do the snowflakes but without watching the video, I don’t remember how we did the five point stars. Maybe I should watch, huh?


  12. Ray G

    Well, you solved one minor mystery, and quite well, too.
    For number two, may I suggest you get down to the sole of Bigfoot?


  13. I remember those booklets. Never thought about the mystery of the star but this is interesting. Learn something new each day.


  14. I can honestly say I’ve never once wondered about Betsy Ross, her relationship with George, or the shape of the star. Now I’m wishing I had had that little mystery in my life so that I could have an a-ha moment after reading your post today. I love learning little factoids like this and I wouldn’t have found it on my own.


  15. I am LOLing. Also a verb.


  16. My mom was a teacher and used to cut stars like that for the bulletin board all the time. Sometimes she conned me into helping.
    Love your conclusions!
    That reading program sounds familiar. Was it all in a box with different colored tabs for the levels? Maybe it was the SRA Reading Labs which have been around for the longest time (really popular from the mid 50’s-70’s). All those little stories – funny, edu research not long ago determined that that those selections were good to improve reading skill, but also did a lot to provide background information on a wide range of topics. (OK, I did work for the company at one point). Reading Labs re-emerged in the 90’s – but many of us insisted a bit of updating and revision was really needed. The original selections were probably written by actual edu writers, researchers, and real authors. No doubt any updating came from cut and paste off the internet by computers. Isn’t it funny what bits we remember from school?


    • It WAS SRA Reading… as soon as I read this, I remembered it so clearly! Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Betsy Ross sounds cool. Makes me want to learn more about her. And who knows what happened with GW’s flag pole??


    • I feel a little bad now for dissing Betsy. After all, she was not some little homemaker sewing in the corner… she was a businesswoman. Way before her time!



  1. One More Little Mystery | notquiteold

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