Thursday, December 4, 2008

Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia

During a recent visit to Philadelphia, I stopped by this historic home of which a variety of souvenir versions have been produced over the years. Currently, a metal pencil sharpener replica of the Betsy Ross House is available. Interestingly, the various replicas all look the same in the front, but the older versions include different structures attached behind the main house. Most versions I’ve seen are about the same size, but are made of different materials (brass, lead and pot metal). An older brass version is also a coin bank. Built more in 1740, the building now known as The Betsy Ross House was home to not just Betsy, but to dozens of artisans and shopkeepers over the years before it was opened to the public as a museum in 1937. The "bandbox" style structure is designed with one room on each floor and a winding staircase stretching from the cellar to the upper levels. The building's front fa├žade, with a large window on the first floor to display merchandise, and its proximity to the Delaware River, made it an ideal location for a business. In fact, the house served as both a business and a residence for many different shopkeepers and artisans for more than 150 years. The first floor front room was used as the workshop and showroom. The business owner and his or her family lived in the rest of the house. In the 18th century the house was occupied by a shoemaker, a shopkeeper, an apothecary and, of course, most famously, an upholsterer. It is believed that Betsy Ross lived here from 1773 to 1785. By the late 19th century most of the other colonial-era buildings that once stood on this block of Arch Street had been torn down and replaced with large industrial buildings and warehouses. Many people feared that Betsy's home would meet the same fate. In 1898, a group of concerned citizens established the American Flag House and Betsy Ross Memorial Association to raise money to purchase the house, restore it and open it as a public museum in honor of Betsy Ross and our first flag. To raise the money to purchase the house, members of the group sold lifetime memberships to the organization for 10 cents.

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