FDC Lessons Newsletter. Issue 3


First Day Covers

are envelopes containing commemorative stamps, appropriate postmarks and

artwork depicting the topic.

Hook Your Students

with first day cover


Check out the

warmup/review lessons

and the


U.S. History

Visual Timeline,

96 covers from



An envelope

may be small,

but it is a huge

primary source.


FDC Image Stamp



     On January 1, 1952, the U.S. Post Office issued a stamp to honor the 200th anniversary of the birth of Betsy Ross. It shows her presenting the new flag to George Washington, Robert Morris and George Ross. The design was taken from a 1892 painting by Charles H. Weisberger.

     Did Betsy Ross sew the first flag? She did, if oral histories are to be believed, as reported in 1870 by her grandson William B. Canby. Facts show that she owned an upholstery shop and had sewn flags for ships. But did General George Washington come to her home in June 1776, and ask her to sew a flag for the new nation? Did she design the five pointed stars?

Betsy Ross Stamp

     These questions have come up in recent years. No documents or records support Canby’s claims. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution stating "the flag of the thirteen united States be 13 stripes alternate red and white, that the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation," but it did not specify the shape of the flag, or the arrangement of the stars. So what caused this woman’s life to become a legend? In the Gilded Age, women’s roles were changing and there was a need to have a “founding mother” along with “founding fathers”. Thus Mr. Canby’s oral history document helped to turn Betsy Ross into a legend.

     Unlike Betsy Ross who has become the legendary seamstress of the nation’s first flag, facts prove that Baltimore flag maker Mary Young Pickersgill sewed the enormous “star-spangled banner” that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. In 1813, under the threat of British attack, the fort’s commander Major George Armistead paid Mary Pickersgill to make a flag “so large that the British will have no difficulty seeing it from a distance." It took six weeks to create such a flag using 400 yards of fabric. This flag is the one that Francis Scott Key saw and penned his poem, The Defence of Fort McHenry, which became our national anthem. In 1956, Congress created our nation’s motto using words from the fourth stanza, And this is our motto, in God is our Trust.

Frances Scott Key


Use this First Day Cover to teach about the battle of Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key, our nation’s anthem and motto, or Mary Young Pickersgill.

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