In view of all the discussions of patriotism these days, I thought this subject was apropos.
Contrary to what some people believe, the Founding Fathers had nothing to do with the Pledge. According to The Writer’s Almanac, it was first recited en mass on October 12, 1892. It had been written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931), and originally published in The Youth’s Companion on September 8, 1892 in the hope that it would be used by citizens in any country. This first version was “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands — one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It was recited on that date in 1892 by a reported two million-plus students to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas.
It has been revised twice. In 1923, the phrase “the flag of the United States of America” was substituted for “my flag” to ensure immigrants were pledging allegiance to their new flag, not the banner of their home country. The words “under God” were added in 1954, as a way to differentiate this country from the Soviet Union.
Bellamy also described a salute to the flag — begin with a military salute, and after the words “to the flag,” the arm was to be extended toward the flag.
A bit later, the pledge was begun with the right hand over the heart; after “to the Flag,” the arm was extended toward the flag, palm-down. But in World War II, it was thought this resembled the Nazi salute, so that part was dropped and the right hand is kept over the heart.