In 1954, the United States of America’s Pledge of Allegiance, as is recited, today, was adopted. But, the history of how the Pledge of Allegiance was born dates as far back as 1887.
After the American Civil War, patriotism and camaraderie, among American citizens, was very low. Determined to renew national unity and encourage Americans to stand together, leaders and educators decided that the way to do this was to start with the nation’s children.
How The Pledge of Allegiance Came To Be
In August of 1892, Daniel Sharp Ford, the owner of The Youth’s Companion magazine, started a campaign to put an American flag in every school in the country and he recruited Francis Bellamy to write a pledge for the flag.
Bellamy was not the first person to write a pledge of allegiance. In fact, Bellamy’s pledge was in response to a pledge, written in 1887, by Colonel George Balch, which was already in use in certain organizations.
The text of the Balch pledge reads:
“We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag!”
Francis Bellamy’s version of the pledge was published in the September 8, 1892 issue of The Youth’s Companion.
The original text of the Bellamy pledge reads:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
It didn’t take long for the pledge to catch on. In October 1892, the pledge was first introduced in public schools. By the 1920’s, all across the United States, at schools, at public gatherings, and even in Congress, Americans were facing the flag and pledging their allegiance to it.
In June of 1923, the National Flag Code was constructed. Included in the Flag code were instructions for the display of the flag and instructions for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the proper way to salute it.
Along with the pledge, Francis Bellamy devised a salute, to be performed during its reciting. The salute required the reciter to extend their arm, with hand open, palm-side up, in reverence, towards the flag.
In 1924, the pledge was revised, again, in order to make sure that immigrants were declaring allegiance to the U.S. flag and not the flag of their country of origin. The updated pledged eliminated, “my Flag” and replaced it with the phrase, “the flag of the United States of America.”
In the 1930’s, after the rise of Adolf Hitler, as the German Chancellor, and eventual Nazi dictator, people began to notice that the salute to the flag, performed while reciting the pledge, looked quite a bit like the Nazi salutes being offered to Hitler. Concerned that photos of Americans, with their arms outstretched (with the American flag cropped out or nowhere in sight), would appear as if the American people supported Hitler’s Nazi regime, the Bellamy salute was eventually phased out.
In June of 1942, the Flag Code became law, with a change that included replacing the Bellamy salute; the extended-arm salute with the, less controversial, hand-over-the-heart gesture, which was less awkward to perform and appeared more patriotic.
The Pledge of Allegiance, as it’s recited, today, was adopted in 1954. Despite Francis Bellamy being a Christian Socialist, he wrote the Pledge as a secular article; designed to foster patriotism and unite all Americans under one flag, regardless of whether or not they practiced a religious faith.
After World War II, the communist Soviet Union appeared to rise up in direct defiance of the democratic United States, which heralded in the Cold War era. The U.S. was also experiencing a religious revival. During this period, government and religious leaders determined that one way for America and its citizens to defeat the atheist menace of communism was for the U.S. to declare itself, “one nation under God.”
The current version of the Pledge of Allegiance reads:
“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which is stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
History Still Being Written
The Pledge of Allegiance has not been altered since 1954, but the fight to return it to its pre-1954 format, or to eliminate it, all together, has been ongoing.
Every since “under God” was added, religious and secular organizations have argued, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, that children being forced to say the pledge, in public schools, using the current oath, is a violation of their first amendment right to practice/not practice their religion without government interference.
The courts have since ruled that children can not be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Pledge is still recited, regularly, in government settings, but many schools now allow children to opt out of saying, or even standing for, the Pledge of Allegiance. In some states, it is no longer a daily tradition.
The Pledge of Allegiance may be considered controversial by today’s standards, but the history of the pledge shows that, at the time of its adoption, it was successful in uniting the American people around their country’s flag and becoming a large part of the history of the United States of America.
 The peculiar history of the Pledge of Allegiance: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/22/opinion/greene-pledge-of-allegiance-salute
 Pledge of Allegiance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance
 The Pledge of Allegiance: http://www.ushistory.org/documents/pledge.htm
 The Strange History Behind The Pledge Of Allegiance: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/strange-history-pledge-of-allegiance
 United States Flag Code https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Flag_Code
 The Pledge of Allegiance: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history_lesson/2002/06/the_pledge_of_allegiance.html