Smithsonian Magazine – In the morning of October 21, 1892, children at schools across the country rose to their feet, faced a newly installed American flag and, for the first time, recited 23 words written by a man that few people today can name. “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands—one nation indivisible—with liberty and justice for all.”
Francis Bellamy reportedly wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in two hours, but it was the culmination of nearly two years of work at the Youth’s Companion, the country’s largest circulation magazine. In a marketing gimmick, the Companion offered U.S. flags to readers who sold subscriptions, and now, with the looming 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World, the magazine planned to raise the Stars and Stripes “over every Public School from the Atlantic to the Pacific” and salute it with an oath.
The pledge itself would prove malleable, and by World War II many public schools required a morning recitation. In 1954, as the cold war intensified, Congress added the words “under God” to distinguish the United States from “godless Communism.”
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