text: seven walking tours through historic Philadelphia

Free Quaker Meeting House


The Free Quaker Meeting House was built in 1783, the last year of the American Revolution. "The Fighting Quakers," or the Free Quakers as they are sometimes called, were a splinter group who broke with the main body during the Revolution. They took the oath of allegiance and bore arms which put them at odds with the main body of Quakers. There were about 200 of them in the beginning and from 1783 until 1834 they met here. Betsy Ross, as Mrs. Claypoole, worshiped here, and Betsy was, if anything, ecumenical before it was fashionable. Her pew is preserved at Christ Church and she was married to Joseph Ashbourn at Old Swedes' Church. Of particular interest is Betsy Ross's tissue pattern for the star, given to Samuel Wetherill, one of the founders of the Free Quakers, by Betsy. Tradition has it she told George Washington she could fold a piece of cloth and with one snip of the scissors make a perfect five-pointed star. Wetherill put the pattern in a safe which was, in true Philadelphia fashion, not opened for 150 years.

Historic District, North of Market Street