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Diary With Chest Credit Moar
The Revolutionary War diary of John Claypoole is displayed alongside his sea chest.
Discovering the diary was like something out of a movie. I felt like the world stood still as I realized what I was holding in my hands – something that was connected to beginning of our country. It’s a miracle that it survived.
Aileen Edge

The Revolutionary War diary of John Claypoole, the third husband of famed seamstress and upholsterer Betsy Ross, was recently donated to the Museum and put on display. Claypoole’s handwritten diary, which includes letters and songs he transcribed, was written during the years 1781 and 1782 and later published in the late 1800s.

The diary documents Claypoole’s experiences as a prisoner of war after the British captured his American privateer ship off the coast of Ireland during the Revolutionary War. Claypoole was imprisoned with other American sailors, first in Ireland and then at the notorious Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England. In the diary, Claypoole reports being with Ross’s second husband, Joseph Ashburn, also a prisoner of war, as he died. Claypoole later traveled to Philadelphia and told Ross the news of her husband’s death. They married shortly thereafter. They were married for more than 30 years and are now buried together at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, just a few blocks from the Museum.

The diary's location had been unknown to scholars for nearly a century before it was discovered last year in a shoebox by Aileen Edge and her husband David as they cleaned the garage of Aileen’s mother, Claire Canby Keleher, a descendant of Ross and Claypoole, who passed away last summer.

The Edge family also donated a family Bible to the Museum that originally belonged to Elizabeth Claypoole, John Claypoole’s mother. The Bible documents the births of Ross and Claypoole’s children as well as including the following inscription that documents the marriage of Ross and Claypoole: “John Claypoole & Elizabeth was married the 8th day of May in the year of our Lord 1783 and in the 8th year of Independence of the United States of America.”

In Case You Missed It

Philadelphia Inquirer (July 2, 2021)
"Betsy Ross descendants reunite with each other and with artifacts of their mythic ancestor"
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CBS News (July 3, 2021)
"Descendants of Betsy Ross reunite in Philadelphia"
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Washington Post (July 12, 2021)
"Betsy Ross’s husband’s diary turned up in a garage. Here’s what it tells us about the flagmaker."
Read More