Betsy Ross interpreter bringing history to life for nearly 20 years

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Thursday, July 20, 2023
Betsy Ross interpreter bringing history to life for nearly 20 years
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Carol Spacht has been bringing one of the most famous stories from the American Revolution to life for nearly 20 years.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- In 2004, Carol Spacht stepped into the shoes of the woman known for having sewed the very first U.S. flag. Now she is one of the women bringing that history to life for the many visitors of the Betsy Ross House.

"We call ourselves interpreters," says Spacht.

She and a few other women portray Ross at different ages in the flag sewer's life.

Spacht has the role of Betsy "Ross" Claypoole.

"I'm portraying her at her third husband's name," she says.

"I am still a flag-maker," says Spacht as Betsy "Ross" Claypoole.

And Spacht has been walking the walk, so to speak.

She actively sews in the upholstery shop where guests can come and interact with her.

"We are always sewing a project," she says. "I was fortunate because I came of an age when we really learned how to sew in school."

She's passing on that knowledge through training and mentoring to the women who play Betsy at other times in her life.

Since 2010, all of the furnishings at the house have been hand sewn by the Betsy interpreters, which includes the bedding and the curtains.

Spacht says they are actually "craftswomen," since they are using their sewing skills to make items that enhance the historic accuracy of the Betsy Ross House.

But she says visitors are most interested in the flag.

"Family story is that she made it right before the Declaration in the spring of 1776," says Spacht. "And family story also says that Betsy recommended to Washington that the stars should be put in a circle."

"A symbol of unity," says Spacht as Betsy "Ross" Claypoole.

As the story goes, she also changed the shape of the stars, from six points to five.

"'Tis my contribution to the flag," says Spacht as Betsy "Ross" Claypoole.

The interpreters are like actors in a play, fully inhabiting the historic character.

Spacht says when people come to visit the house they're able to "suspend their disbelief."

"And all of a sudden, they've leaped," she says. "And they've made this imaginative leap to recognize, what if? What if I was really talking to Betsy Ross? And those are the magic moments."

"I want them to recognize this incredible woman," says Spacht.

Betsy Ross House

239 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106