The Pledge of Allegiance was recited for the first time by an estimated 12 million school children.
When the Pledge of Allegiance was first recited on October 21, 1892, the Ferris Wheel had not yet been invented. Neither had the game of basketball or chewing gum. Benjamin Harrison was the President and the “Star Spangled Banner” was not yet America’s official national anthem.
The Pledge of Allegiance became part of Upham’s “Schoolhouse Flag Movement”, begun in 1888 and culminating in 1892 for the 400th anniversary of America’s discovery.
Prior to the Schoolhouse Flag Movement, American flags were rare. Upham’s idea was to place an American flag in front of every school in the nation, inspiring patriotism for future generations of Americans.
The original Pledge of Allegiance was scribbled on a piece of paper: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands – one nation indivisible – with liberty and justice for all.” It was published in the September, 1892 issue of the very popular Youth’s Companion, reaching its subscribers just in time for the children to begin memorizing it for the October anniversary.
Prior to the Pledge of Allegiance we recite today, there was another popular pledge. Called the “Balch Pledge”, named for its creator, Col. George Balch, it went like this:
“We give our heads and our hearts to God and our country!
One Country! One Language! One Flag!”
The most common salute children used during the recitation of the Pledge was a “raised arm salute”. Today, we refer to this as the Nazi salute. There were no negative connotations attached to this salute style until Adolph Hitler began his deadly reign. But, after World War II, the American public wanted nothing to do with the raised arm salute and so, it was officially changed to the “hand-over-heart salute” in 1942.
The Pledge of Allegiance was first edited in 1923 when “my flag” was replaced by “the flag of the United States”. It was recited that way for one short year. This was also the year that Americans began to accept the “Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem.
In 1924, the words, “of America” were added. Both changes were made at the First and Second National Flag Conference, convened to standardize practices related to the use of the flag. As a result, the United States Flag Code was published and handed out nationwide, instructing Americans on the proper etiquette of flag protocol.
In 1954, the Pledge of Allegiance was edited a third time. The threat of a worldwide takeover of Communism was uppermost in the minds of most Americans. Because the philosophy of communism includes the elimination of all religion, the United States Congress wanted to make a declaration about freedom, particularly the right of every American to freely practice their religion.
The bill to add “under God” to the Pledge was introduced on February 8, 1954, on the five-year anniversary of the imprisonment of Hungarian Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty. Cardinal Mindszenty had been arrested, tortured and imprisoned because of his fearless sermons denouncing the communist goal of eradicating religion. Just the day before, President Dwight Eisenhower attended church and the Minister preached about why “under God” should be added to the Pledge of Allegiance. The bill was introduced in Congress as a way to remember the price we pay for freedom. It was signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower and recited for the first time with its new phrase, “under God”, on June 14, 1954.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tricia Raymond is an expert on the history of the Pledge of Allegiance, having written two books on the topic, one for middle school students and the other for a more mature audience. America’s Story: A Pictorial History of the Pledge of Allegiance (2007) is in the top 4% of independently published books, with word of mouth as its only advertisement. In 2011, Tricia wrote her second book, Saving One Nation Under God: The Role of the Pledge of Allegiance in America’s Fight Against Socialis. Saving One Nation is enjoying the same enthusiastic response. Tricia speaks frequently on the topic of Pledge history. She can be reached at email@example.com or through her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/#!/SavingOneNationUnderGod
WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING ABOUT AMERICA’S STORY: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE?
“I bought your book for my grandchildren and they were enthralled until the end. None of them had any idea from whence came the Pledge (and neither did their parents.)” ~ Janis, pastor’s wife
“Our children range in grades from 3rd to 9th, and the book kept everyone’s attention. They were hanging on every word to the end of the chapter.” ~ Angie, homeschool mom
“I can recommend America’s Story as a wonderful resource for adults as well as for teaching our children and grandchildren.” ~ Gary, Tea Party Leader