The pledge of allegiance is as iconic to the United States as the flag and the founding fathers, however, it may be surprising that the pledge is neither as old as the flag, nor was it written by a prominent or influential founding father. Instead, it was created by Francis Bellamy, a Rome, New York resident in 1892. Bellamy, an editor for the educational publication, The Youth’s Companion, wanted the country’s public schools to commemorate that year’s Columbus Day by reciting a collective verse.
Appearing in the September 8th issue of The Youth’s Companion, the pledge was recited by an estimated ten million schoolchildren Bellamy’s original pledge read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands – one nation indivisible – with liberty and justice for all.” Bellamy also included that the pledge should be accompanied with a salute. Starting with a military salute and end with the arm extended towards the flag.
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.
The Youth’s Companion, 1892
He originally intended for the pledge to be recited once, but its popularity turned it into an annual Columbus Day tradition. Soon, it became a daily recitation. During World War II, the salute was seen to resemble the Nazi salute too much. So, at the end of 1942, on the request of President Roosevelt, Congress enacted a law adopting the “hand over heart” stance.
The wording of Bellamy’s pledge has been adjusted twice over the years. In 1923, “my flag” was changed by the United States Flag Association into “the Flag of the United States of America.” It was not until 1954, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, did the religious addition of “under God” become part of the pledge. Bellamy’s daughter objected to this addition and stated that her father was against changing the “my flag” stanza and would not want “under God” inserted as well.
Charles Panati, Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, New York: Harper, 1989, 250-251.