Francis Bellamy and the Pledge of Allegiance
Today is about the Pledge of Allegiance, how it came to be, and how it was originally done.
We all know the controversy of the words “under God” which were added to the pledge in 1954, mostly through the endeavors of George Docherty, a Presbyterian minister, but it had been advocated by various ministers since the start of the Cold War. By this point in history, the United States had replaced the Third Reich as the country most opposing communism on the grounds of religion.
The originator of the Pledge of Allegiance was Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister who worked on the children’s magazine, The Youth Companion. The Youth Companion was a religious publication, but had to change to entertainment, medical news, and adult sections to remain economically viable.
In 1888, Editor James Upton decided to start a campaign to sell American flags to every school in the country, to boost magazine subscriptions. If every school had a flag in every classroom, and flew them over the school, they would make a fortune. You see, up until this point, most schools did not fly the flag, nor were they generally in classrooms.
In 1892, to commemorate Columbus’ 400 year anniversary of discovering the Americas, they hit on the idea of adding a pledge to the flag, which should really increase sales.
Pastor Bellamy came up with the idea, which is included verbatim here. “Bellmay came to attention and clicked his heels. “Now up there is the flag; I come to salute; as I say ‘I pledge allegiance to my flag,’ I stretch out my right hand and keep it raised while I say the stirring words that follow.””
“At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute — right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” At the words, “to my Flag,” the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side.” Youth Companion #65 1892
If the image is difficult for you to visualize, just look at the pictures below, or watch an old WWII movie. Yep, now you see it. But we will get to that soon.
The idea was a total ripoff of the old Roman salute, in which a man banged his fist to his heart and then extended it outward palm down level with his eye. You can see this same salute on the original Star Trek as used by the Romulans and Terran Empire.
The campaign was a huge success, and all over the country schools added flag poles and had a flag in every class (and pictures of George Washington).
For the next 50 years, Americans everywhere raised their right arms to chant the pledge in unison. Every school day started with a flag raising and pledge, while the rest of the students did so in their classes. Churches, VFW meetings, family picnics,Klan cross burnings, and even at home; everyone said the pledge the same way.
As fascist forces started to arise in Europe, they too adopted the salute. Their movements did originate from a New Roman Empire ideal after all. Many of them commented on their “kindred spirits” in the United States. Newsreels were filled with thousands of Nazis raising their right arms and saying their pledges of loyalty in unison. This started to make people in America uneasy, and attempts were made to change the pledge.
It took the United States being in WWII for over a full year before they stopped using the same salute as their enemies. It was quietly changed by Congress on December 22, 1942, right before they recessed for Christmas break. There was much resistance to the move at first, but eventually everyone complied. As the horrors of the Nazi atrocities were revealed, attempts were made to erase it from the memory of Americans. Few movies or books made covering that age show the correct salute.
You still see this salute preformed occasionally. It is the “orignial” salute, and was used for 1/3 of the United States existence up to the point it was abolished, but is no longer the “correct” one.
With the sports season upon us, thousands of loyal fans will fill stadiums to cheer on their teams. As the national anthem starts, and they rise to cover their hearts and face the flag, just picture what they would be doing if the Second World War had not occurred.