Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Canby (William J.) Papers
mssHM 41760 (1-39)  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (107.12 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement
  • Processing Information

  • Contributing Institution: The Huntington Library
    Title: William J. Canby papers
    Identifier/Call Number: mssHM 41760 (1-39)
    Physical Description: 2.5 Linear Feet (2 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1758-1975
    Date (bulk): 1905-1959
    Abstract: This collection contains papers related to the speech of William J. Canby(1825-1890), the grandson of seamstress Betsy Ross (1752-1836), before the Pennsylvania Historical Society in 1870, which was the first time that Canby publicly shared his family's tradition that Ross had made the first United States American flag. There is also correspondence relating to George Canby and his research, and genealogical data on Canby, Ross, and Claypoole families.
    Language of Material: English.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Open for use by qualified researchers and by appointment. Please contact Reader Services at the Huntington Library for more information.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. William J. Canby papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Marion Balderston, 1974-1975.

    Biographical / Historical

    William Jackson Canby (1825-1890), grandson of the seamstress Betsy Ross, read a paper in March, 1870 in the Pennsylvania Historical Society relating for the first time in public his family's tradition that Betsy Ross (Elizabeth Claypoole) made the first U.S. American flag. His theory was criticized for the lack of corroborative evidence. Upon Canby's death, his brother George continued research on the story, and his findings were published by Lloyd Balderston in The evolution of the American flag / from materials collected by the late George Canby by Lloyd Balderston (Philadelphia : Ferris & Leach, 1909).

    Scope and Contents

    Correspondence, manuscripts, and documents relating to William J. Canby's speech in the Pennsylvania Historical Society, including a copy of the presentation and sworn affidavits from Margaret Boggs, Rachel Fletcher, Sophia B. Hildebrandt; Susan Satterthwaite Newport, Susanna McCord Turner and Margared McCord Smith; William J. Canby's "My own recollections of Grandmother Elizabeth Claypoole," and the pencil notes to his mother and aunts.
    George Canby and his research are represented by his correspondence with his brother, John Quincy Adams, secretary of the American Flag House and Betsy Ross Memorial Association, London firm B.F. Stevens and Brown, and other persons. There are also a manuscript of his "Evolution of the American Flag" and correspondence of Lloyd Balderston, John L. Balderston, and Marion Balderston regarding the Betsy Ross story and the debates over its authenticity.
    The collection also includes genealogical and historical data relating to Ross, Canby, and Claypoole families, including the daybook of Isaiah Canby covering 1797-1802.
    The ephemera include pamphlets, newspaper clippings, postcards and photographs.


    Arranged chronologically.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Olga Tsapina in 2001.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Flags -- United States -- History
    Pennsylvania -- Genealogy.
    United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783.
    Letters (correspondence) -- United States.
    Affidavits -- United States.
    Genealogies -- United States.
    Family papers -- United States.
    Journals (accounts) -- United States.
    Histories -- United States
    Canby, William J.
    Canby, George, 1829-1907
    Ross, Betsy, 1752-1836
    Canby, George, 1829-1907
    Canby, Isaiah, active 1797-1802