Most of us enjoy quotations penned by poets, statesmen and authors. Many of us find the thoughts and words of various writers so powerful or full of meaning that we can often recite favorite quotations from memory.
However, it is a sure bet that, for almost every American, there is one written piece which they can recite from memory but have no idea who wrote the famous words they know by heart.
The words from this little known writer are, inspiringly heartfelt and you’ve undoubtedly, at different times throughout your life, recited the words of Francis Julius Bellamy without ever realizing he was the author of our country’s “Pledge of Allegiance”.
Francis Julius Bellamy was born in Mount Morris, NY, about 45 miles south of Rochester, in 1855. Young Francis belonged to a devout family of Baptists and, like his father before him, Francis felt a call to preach the Gospels.
As a young man, he became a Baptist minister and, in early years he traveled extensively to share his faith in communities around the eastern United States. He married and had three sons before the passing of his wife Harriet in 1918.
In 1891 while living in Massachusetts, Bellamy was approached by Daniel Sharp Ford the owner of a magazine. Ford wanted to hire Bellamy to write some inspirational articles for his popular magazine, The Youth’s Companion.
The Youth’s Companion was marketed to primarily young men to promote patriotism, moral values and high ideals. Later, the magazine broadened its content to include articles aimed at the entire family and, eventually, the magazine’s title was shortened to simply The Companion.
Contributing authors included Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Booker T. Washington, Jack London and poetry from Emily Dickenson.
In September of 1892, the publication included a patriotic piece penned by Francis Julius Bellamy, who was then a staff writer. It was Bellamy’s “Pledge of Allegiance”.
At that time, the magazine had begun a campaign to sell magazine subscriptions to public schools and, as a promotion, the schools would receive a premium gift of an American flag. The campaign was a huge success and within a few years, the magazine had distributed over 25,000 flags to public schools across America.
In 1892, on the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to “discover” America, the magazine’s editorial staff called for a national movement to be established to coincide with the Columbian Exposition, the world’s fair to be held in Chicago in 1893 on the 400th anniversary of Columbus landing in the New World. The editorial staff proposed a “National Columbian Public School Celebration” and a special program for schoolchildren honoring Columbus’ voyage that would include a flag salute at schools.
Bellamy’s words, known as The Pledge of Allegiance, appeared in the magazine on September 8, 1892. Immediately following the debut of the Pledge, Bellamy launched a speaking tour to promote the campaign. He spoke to civic groups, school boards, and government leaders as well as at a national meeting of school superintendents. Along with the National Education Association, Bellamy designed a program for a national celebration for schools with a flag-raising ceremony followed by the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
As originally published in The Youth Companion, Bellamy’s words read:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Over the years, there were some changes to the words and in traditions of what accompanied the Pledge. Originally, when reciting the Pledge, children and adults would give a salute with right arms outstretched toward he flag. Later, during World War ll, many felt that the “Bellamy Salute” looked too much like the salute used by the Nazis in Germany and the Fascists in Italy. So, the salute was dropped and replaced with putting one’s right hand over the heart while saying the Pledge.
In 1954, President Eisenhower asked Congress to modify the Pledge to include the words, “under God”.
Bellamy’s later years were spent living and working in Florida. He passed away on August 29, 1931 at the age of 76.
Bellamy, who was raised a Master Mason in Little Falls Lodge No. 181, in Little Falls, New York, created a wonderful gift for our Nation. With his well chosen words, he provided generations of Americans with a written statement encapsulating the virtues which encourages us all to unite to continue to keep liberty and justice as beacons of hope.