Happy Pledge of Allegiance Day, America!

The Youth's Companion, 1888.

October 12, 1892 was the day that an estimated 12 million school children recited the Pledge of Allegiance for the very first time.*  After reciting it, their schools and towns prayed or read Scripture.  The principal of every school in Boston, MA read aloud Psalm 145. New York Times, October 22, 1892, page 9.  

1892 was a time of great divisiveness in America. A time when parents wondered if their own children would grow up knowing the blessings of freedom … or if America would fall to socialism.  Yes, socialism.  You see, the ideas of redistributing wealth and nationalizing industry had just entered the American conversation in the late 1800s.  While it was a novel idea at first and while some Americans took its ideas to heart, it unnerved most Americans.  Liberty was facing an enemy it had never faced before and Americans didn’t like it.

One man had another idea. “Could the Stars and Stripes be hung upon the walls of every home and of every school room in the land, how grandly might patriotism and love of liberty be unceasingly taught.”  This idea came from James Upham, a patriot unknown to Americans, but a man who united America during a time of great upheaval.  Upham knew that “love of liberty” would ultimately win the day. 

And so, he began a campaign to place an American flag in front of every school throughout the nation.  A simple idea, yes.  But, one that Americans took to heart.  By 1891, 21,000 schools had a new American flag flying in front of their school.  Later, Upham conceived of the idea to recite a pledge underneath it. 

His dream came true in 1892 – the first Columbus Day, which was also the day America came together to celebrate the 400th anniversary of her discovery.  A great day.  A day of unity, patriotism and love of liberty. 

Today, we brush past Columbus Day as if it is nothing more than a day to shop or sleep in late.  But, its genesis was so much more than that.  It was a day that Americans united to boldly proclaim their love of country and their determination to keep America free. It was the day Christopher Columbus was celebrated like a rock star.  It was the day the Pledge of Allegiance made its debut … and America set aside its differences to celebrate its exceptionalism. 

You have likely never heard this part of our American heritage. What a shame it isn’t taught in schools!  A nation that does not pass along its heritage to the next generation is a nation doomed to die. 

I have spent the last 17 years researching the history of the Pledge of Allegiance.  And if there is any truism about the Pledge, it is this: The history of the Pledge of Allegiance is the history of America’s rejection of socialism.  Pure and simple. 

Tricia Raymond is an expert on the history of the Pledge of Allegiance and speaks frequently on this topic.  She is the author of America’s Story: A Pictorial History of the Pledge of Allegiance. Watch for the release of her new book, Saving One Nation Under God, How the Pledge of Allegiance Helped America Fight Socialism. Launch date: 11/11/11

* Actually, there were two “first” Columbus Day’s in 1892. The other was October 21, 1892.  No, it wasn’t because of a typographical error.  There was another reason.  But, you have to buy my book to find out what it was!


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