Three American Icons: Paul Revere, J. Edgar Hoover, and Betsy Ross
Americans love their heroes and heroines, especially those who embody their ideals of courage, patriotism, and creativity. Three names that often come up in conversations about iconic figures from the nation’s history are Paul Revere, J. Edgar Hoover, and Betsy Ross. Each of them represents a different aspect of American identity, but they also share some surprising similarities. In this article, we will explore who they were, what they accomplished, and what they have in common.
Paul Revere (1735-1818) is famous for his midnight ride on April 18, 1775, when he warned fellow patriots in Massachusetts that British troops were marching to arrest rebel leaders and seize their weapons. Revere also served as an artillery officer during the Revolutionary War, designed and made copper engravings of political cartoons and currency, and helped establish the first American foundry for casting bells. His image and story have become intertwined with the story of the American Revolution as a symbol of civic alertness, self-reliance, and community spirit.
J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) was the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for nearly five decades, from 1924 to 1972, under eight U.S. presidents. Hoover built the FBI into a powerful and secretive agency that tackled organized crime, domestic subversion, and espionage. He also established a rigorous training and promotion system for agents, pioneered forensic science techniques, and expanded the collection of fingerprints, photographs, and other personal data for criminal identification. Hoover’s personal and professional life has been controversial, with allegations of corruption, abuse of power, and violation of civil liberties.
Betsy Ross (1752-1836) is often credited with sewing the first American flag, a banner with thirteen white stars on a blue field and thirteen red and white stripes, in 1776. While there is no conclusive evidence that Ross actually did so, she was a skilled seamstress and ran a successful upholstery business in Philadelphia. Ross also made flags and uniforms for the Continental Army, and nursed wounded soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Her image and story have become associated with the values of craftsmanship, ingenuity, and patriotism.
So, what do these three historical figures have in common?
First, they all lived and worked in or near Philadelphia, the birthplace of American independence and a hub of political, cultural, and commercial activities. Revere was born in Boston but traveled extensively throughout the colonies, including Philadelphia, where he met other leaders of the resistance movement. Hoover was born in Washington, D.C., but moved to Philadelphia with his mother and siblings after his father’s death. Ross was born and raised in Philadelphia, where she married and raised her family.
Second, they all contributed to the symbols and rites of American identity, either directly or indirectly. Revere’s “midnight ride” became a legendary event that mobilized thousands of Americans to join the cause of liberty and spread the news of the British invasion. Revere’s engravings depicted famous scenes such as the Boston Massacre and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, shaping public opinion and national memory. Hoover’s FBI emblem, with its initials and eagle design, became an iconic symbol of law enforcement and national security. Hoover also supervised the production of films, posters, and other propaganda materials that promoted American values and interests. Ross’s alleged sewing of the flag became a patriotic myth that inspired generations of schoolchildren and military personnel. Ross’s name and likeness appeared on stamps, coins, and memorabilia, reinforcing her status as an American icon.
Third, they all faced challenges and controversies that sparked debates about their legacy and significance. Revere was accused of being a braggart and a profiteer by some of his contemporaries, who questioned his version of events and his motives. Revere also suffered financial setbacks and personal tragedies, including the loss of his wife and several children. Hoover was criticized for his authoritarian style, his lack of accountability, and his political biases. Hoover also clashed with civil rights leaders, anti-war protesters, and dissident groups, who accused him of promoting censorship, surveillance, and repression. Ross’s story was contested by some historians, who argued that other people or committees were more likely to have designed the first flag. Ross was also associated with the controversial practice of slaveholding, which some activists saw as incompatible with her supposed devotion to freedom and equality.
In conclusion, Paul Revere, J. Edgar Hoover, and Betsy Ross share a complex and multi-layered legacy as American icons. They embody different aspects of American history, culture, and values, but they also reflect the challenges and contradictions of those ideals. As with any historical figure, their memory and meaning continue to evolve with time and context, as new evidence and perspectives emerge. However, their impact and influence on American identity remain undeniable and enduring.
Fun facts and trivia about Paul Revere, J. Edgar Hoover and Betsy Ross
– Paul Revere was not the only rider who warned the colonists of the British attack. William Dawes and Samuel Prescott also rode out that night, but they did not become as famous as Revere because they did not reach their destination or spread the message far enough. Revere was also captured by the British but later released, and he did not shout “The British are coming!” as depicted in Longfellow’s poem.
– J. Edgar Hoover was a voracious reader and a collector of books, art, and artifacts. Hoover amassed a vast personal library with over 200,000 volumes, including rare editions, first editions, and signed copies of works by Shakespeare, Dickens, and other authors. Hoover’s library also contained many political and historical documents, such as the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. After his death, the library was donated to the Library of Congress and the FBI Headquarters.
– Betsy Ross was not the first woman to make a flag in America. However, she was the first woman who is known to have made a flag for the newly formed nation. Ross was also credited with designing and making other flags for various patriotic purposes, such as the “Eagle and Stars” flag for the Pennsylvania navy, which had a white eagle on a blue field with 13 yellow stars. Ross’s house, where she allegedly made the first flag, is now a national historic site in Philadelphia.
– Paul Revere was not just a silversmith and an engraver; he also experimented with other practical inventions. Revere designed a stove that could burn wood and coal, a waterproof container for gunpowder, and an improved version of the colonial lathe. Revere also advocated for the use of scientific methods and technologies in manufacturing, such as precision measuring tools and interchangeable parts.
– J. Edgar Hoover was portrayed in various movies, TV shows, and books, often as a villain or a hero, depending on the angle and the genre. Some of the most famous portrayals of Hoover include: Broderick Crawford in “The FBI Story” (1959), Clint Eastwood in “J. Edgar” (2011), and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Edgar Hoover” (TBA). Hoover was reportedly involved in tracking and censoring Hollywood productions that he deemed subversive or offensive, such as “High Noon” and “Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.”
– Betsy Ross was not the only member of her family who supported the patriotic cause. Ross’s first husband, John Ross, died in a gunpowder accident during the war, and her second husband, Joseph Ashburn, died in a British prison ship. Ross’s third husband, John Claypoole, was wounded in the battle of Germantown and later served in the Continental Congress. Ross’s daughter and son-in-law also participated in the war effort, with her daughter allegedly making cartridges and her son-in-law fighting in battles.
Quiz Questions About J. Edgar Hoover, Betsy Ross and PAUL REVERE
1. What is the common attribute between Paul Revere and Betsy Ross?
a. both were presidents of the United States
b. both were artists
c. both were soldiers
d. both were inventors
2. What is the common attribute between J. Edgar Hoover and Betsy Ross?
a. both were police officers
b. both were fashion designers
c. both were musicians
d. both were writers
3. What is the common attribute between Paul Revere and J. Edgar Hoover?
a. both were spies
b. both were astronauts
c. both were comedians
d. both were football players
4. What is the common attribute between all three – Paul Revere, J. Edgar Hoover and Betsy Ross?
a. all were born in the same city
b. all were involved in the American Revolution
c. all were Olympic athletes
d. all were astronauts
5. What is the common attribute between Paul Revere, Betsy Ross and J. Edgar Hoover?
a. all were actors
b. all appear on U.S. currency
c. all were circus performers
d. all were chefs