The Pledge of Allegiance

On September 8, 1892, a Boston-based youth magazine "The Youth's Companion" published a 22-word recitation for school children to use during planned activities the following month to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America. Under the title "The Pledge to the Flag", the composition was the earliest version of what we now know as the Pledge of Allegiance.

The October 12, 1892 Columbus Day celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the discovery of America was planned for years in advance.  The United States had recovered from most of the effects of its Civil War that began 30 years earlier, and people from around the world were flocking to the "Land of Opportunity." The previous year, almost a half million immigrants had entered the United States through the Barge Office in Battery Park, New York and on New Years day of 1892 the new Federal Bureau of Receiving's station at Ellis Island had opened.

Two men, Francis Bellamy and James Upham, planned Columbus Day celebrations around our Nation's 44 states. To this day, it is still unknown which of the two men actually authored the words that were to become the Pledge of Allegiance. It was published anonymously and was not copyrighted.

James Upham was an employee of the Boston publishing firm that produced "The Youth's Companion" in which it first appeared. Francis Bellamy was an educator who served as chairman of the national committee of educators and civic leaders who were planning the Columbus Day activities. What we do know for certain is that the words first appeared in the September 8, 1892 issue of "The Youth's Companion", and a month later more than 12 million school children recited the words for the first time in schools across the nation. Our Pledge of Allegiance was born, but like anything new, it took many years to "reach maturity", and underwent several changes along the way. That first Pledge of Allegiance read:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

October 11, 1892

After the Columbus Day celebration, the Pledge to the Flag became a popular daily routine in America's public schools, but gained little attention elsewhere for almost 25 years. Finally, on Flag Day - June 14, 1923, the Pledge received major attention from adults who had gathered for the first National Flag Conference in Washington, D.C. Here their Conference agenda took note of the wording in the Pledge. There was concern that, with the number of immigrants now living in the United States, there might be some confusion when the words "My Flag" were recited. To correct this, the Pledge was altered to read:

I pledge allegiance to the
Flag of the United States,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

June 14, 1923

The following year the wording was changed again to read:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

June 14, 1924

The Pledge of Allegiance continued to be recited daily by children in schools across America, and gained heightened popularity among adults during the patriotic fervor created by World War II. It still was an "unofficial" pledge until June 22, 1942, when the United States Congress included the Pledge to the Flag in the United States Flag Code (Title 36). This was the first official sanction given to the words that had been recited each day by children for almost fifty years. One year after receiving this official sanction, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced to recite the Pledge as part of their daily routine.

In 1945 the Pledge to the Flag received its official title as: The Pledge of Allegiance.

The last change in the Pledge of Allegiance occurred on June 14 (Flag Day), 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved adding the words "under God." As he authorized this change he said:

"In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war."

This was the last change made to the Pledge of Allegiance. The twenty-three words what had been initially penned for a Columbus Day celebration, now comprised a thirty-one word profession of loyalty and devotion to not only a flag, but to a way of life....the American ideal.