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Pledge of Allegiance

James Bailey Upham, editor of The Youth's Companion, persuaded President Benjamin Harrison in 1892 to ask the U.S. Congress to declare October 12 a national holiday in honor of "the discovery of America," which had occurred 400 years earlier. On June 20, 1892, the congressional resolution passed creating Columbus Day.

"The flame of patriotism is dying out in this country," Upham said. "and I believe the place to revive that intense spirit is among America's schoolchildren."

Immediately, Upham and Francis Bellamy, who worked in the Boston office of the Companion, launched an effort to place an American flag at every schoolhouse in the nation. In addition, the two wanted to publish a vow of loyalty that could be recited by schoolchildren. Bellamy crafted the 23 words that appeared in the September 8, 1892, edition of the Companion, although the verse was published unsigned. On October 12, 1892, 12 million schoolchildren across the nation recited the words:

"I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The Kansas connection begins in 1890 with high school student Frank E. Bellamy of Cherryvale. Frank's teacher suggested her students should enter the contest "The Flag and the Public School," sponsored by The Youth's Companion magazine. She asked them to write what they were thinking about when they saluted the U.S. Flag. Calls for entry appeared in the January 9, 1890, issue of the magazine with the deadline of April 1890. Frank entered the contest, but the magazine never acknowledged his entry.

A few years later, Lillian Hendricks, president of the Woman's Relief Corps of Kansas, encouraged Cherryvale's high school principal to set aside a recitation hour for the 16 members of the senior class to write about their debt and duty to their country and government. Frank E. Bellamy's essay included the same words as his class assignment from 1890. The composition was so impressive to Hendricks that she entered it in a national contest. President William McKinley selected the winning entry. Frank E. Bellamy's 23-word entry was chosen. The words were the same as those written by the other Bellamy, Francis Bellamy. The composition written by the Cherryvale high school student was the "The Pledge of Allegiance."

A story entitled, "A Kansas Schoolboy Wrote Our Pledge of Loyalty to the Flag" and published by the Kansas City Star in 1917, led to speculation about the true author of the "Pledge." Hendricks defended the Kansas student, Frank E. Bellamy, and insisted that there was no definitive proof that he had ever seen the published version, much less intentionally plagiarized the "Pledge." In the 1930s, the United State Flag Association conducted a formal investigation. The final report, issue in 1939, credited Francis Bellamy and The Youth Companion as the true authors of "The Pledge of Allegiance."

Entry: Pledge of Allegiance

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2009

Date Modified: January 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.