A brief history of the Pledge of Allegiance

Thursday June 27, 2002

The Pledge of Allegiance, attributed to socialist editor and clergyman Francis Bellamy, was first published in 1892 in The Youth’s Companion, a children’s magazine where he worked. 

The pledge was meant to echo the sentiments and ideals of Bellamy’s cousin, Edward Bellamy, an author of “Looking Backward” and other socialist utopian novels, according to pledge expert John Baer. 

Bellamy crafted it as a resonating oration to bolster the idea that the middle class could fashion a planned political and social economy, equitable for all, Baer said. 

After a proclamation by President Benjamin Harrison, the pledge was first used on Oct. 12, 1892 in public schools during Columbus Day observances throughout the nation. 

The original wording was: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands: one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” 

There were those who claimed The Youth’s Companion editor James B. Upham penned the famous pledge, but the U.S. Flag Association ruled in 1939 to recognize Bellamy was the author. 

The pledge has been changed a few times since. For Flag Day in 1924, “the flag of the United States of America” was officially adopted as a substitution for the phrase “my flag.” 

In 1954, the words “under God” were added, after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s service organization, and other religious leaders who sermonized that the pledge needed to be distinguished from similar orations used by “godless communists.” 

The prospect of atomic war between world superpowers so moved President Dwight D. Eisenhower that he directed Congress to add the two small but controversial words.