Saturday, March 22, 2014

How About The Bellamy Salute...?

Did you know the original Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist? Pretty strange, huh?

The strangest part of the original pledge was the salute. That's what this article from KnowledgeNuts is all about. Makes for an interesting read!

What The American Flag Salute Once Looked Like
By Debra Kelly on Thursday, March 20, 2014

It was called the Bellamy Salute, after the Socialist Baptist minister who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance. Originally, there was no right and wrong way to salute the American flag while reciting the declaration of loyalty every schoolchild knows by heart. When Congress met after World War I to standardize the salute that would be performed before the flag, they settled on one in which the pledge would be started by the person with their hand on their heart, and halfway through they would extend their arm, palm up, in a gesture of respect. Until, that is, Hitler decided to use almost the exact same thing.

Take a look at some old photos from the 1920s and 1930s like the one above. You’ll see typical schoolchildren reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. But you’ll also probably need to look twice, because to us, they’re making a gesture that can’t possibly be right. Can it?

It is, only they’re doing something called the Bellamy Salute. Named after the man who penned the Pledge of Allegiance, the gesture is eerily reminiscent of one that would be made infamous in an entirely different context during the 1940s when the Third Reich swept through Europe. And in fact, that’s why we just stick with putting our hand over our heart today.

Every school-age child in America knows the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s recited every morning when students stand and place their right hands over their hearts in a solemn gesture of respect.

It wasn’t always like that, though. The pledge has undergone several transformations, keeping the same basic idea but changing the wording. (Oddly, the words that today are so controversial—“under God”—didn’t appear in the pledge until they were added in 1954.) And so has the salute.

The pledge was written in 1892 and first appeared in the September 8th issue of a magazine called Youth’s Companion. It was a huge success. Along with the words, most people stood and saluted the flag as well, some with a military salute, some with their hand on their heart, some with a version in between. On the heels of World War I, it was decided that the salute needed to be standardized. So they went with a version they called the Bellamy Salute. It should look a little familiar.

Along with the text of the pledge, Youth’s Companion also published instructions on how the flag was supposed to be saluted, and it was this that was made standard practice. Following cues from a teacher or other authority figure, everyone was to stand and turn toward the flag. The start of the pledge was recited with hand over heart. At the mention of the flag, though, the right arm was extended straight out, hand in the air, palm upwards.

Indeed. The only difference between the Bellamy Salute and that one that countless Third Reich soldiers would give Hitler is that their hands would be palm down.

(There were different pledge guidelines for adults, who were merely instructed to stand at the reciting of the pledge. Military personnel were always encouraged to give the standard military salute.)

Not surprisingly, the similarities between the salutes made many Americans uncomfortable by the time World War II was in full force. So much so that FDR changed the salute to skip the whole “extended arm salute” part and Americans just kept their hand on their heart from then on. That wasn’t without a fight, though. The Daughters of the American Revolution and the United States Flag Association both petitioned the government to keep the original, extended arm salute, even as the war progressed. It wasn’t actually changed until December 1942, although protests over the similarities between the American and German salutes began as early as 1935.

Did you already know this? I didn't. How strange is it that the Nazi salute and the Bellamy Salute were so similar? Guess it's good that we decided to change ours. I like the hand over the heart best of all anyway!

Coffee out on the patio this morning, OK?


Mamahen said...

Wow..I didn't know most of this and I wonder when this was written. I'm not sure that line every school aged child in America knows the pledge is still true these days sad as that is...

Rob said...

I'd no idea about the straight arm salute, that's interesting. I can see why they changed it, if you saw it on a newsreel you might have to wonder 'who' you were seeing.

I'd heard that "God" was added in the 50's.

That was a good one Mr Hermit!

Sunnybrook Farm said...

A salute was an easy way for leaders to see if anyone had a weapon in their right hand. Guess they didn't worry about the lefty's. Same with the hand shake.

Chickenmom said...

Good one, Mr. Hermit - we learn so much from you! Coffee on the patio with good friends is a great way to start the weekend!

JO said...

I didn't know about the arm being held straight out either. I'm happy for the change. I know some old timers who wouldn't do the pledge because of the insert of God. Made me so angry, I told them they disrespected out country and they could leave out the In God we trust and do it the old way better than no way at all.

Anyway thanks for this informative post. I'm ready for a refill please.

HermitJim said...

Hey Mamahen...
Actually there have been very few changes in the pledge since it was written. You can find out more info at

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Rob...
It is a bit of a shock to see that, isn't it? I'm glad you found this one interesting!

Thanks for the visit today!

Hey Sunnybrook...
Works pretty good for that, I reckon!

Thanks for coming over!

Hey Phyllis...
I'm glad if I can point out something different and new!

Thanks for stopping by today!

Hey Jo...
There is no accounting for what some folks think!

I'm glad you liked the post!

Thanks, sweetie, for dropping by today!

Dizzy-Dick said...

Thanks for the history lesson. I love finding out how things got started.

Matt Crypto said...

Great post. Thanks. The pledge is even worse than you informed us. The pledge was the origin of the Nazi salute and Nazi behavior (as shown in the discoveries of the historian Dr. Rex Curry). The original pledge started with the speakers hand in the MILITARY SALUTE (not at his side), and during the pledge, when the speaker says "to my flag," the hand was SUPPOSED to be extended PALM UP toward the flag, but in practice students simply extended the military salute outward toward the flag, which was with the PALM DOWN. Yet, the palm-down way became the standard practice, and sometimes the military salute was dropped entirely, resulting in nothing but the stiff-armed salute that was exactly the Nazi salute (adopted later in Germany). The socialist Francis Bellamy wrote the pledge as part of a campaign for government to take over education, to take over all schools. And the whole thing did not become moot when Hitler came into power (1930-1933) and that is not when the gesture changed. The US's Nazi gesture for the pledge continued to be used for over a decade more and even beyond (even after Congress waded into the mess (1942). Roosevelt did not have anything to do with it other than being in office at the time. Everyone in the US did not immediately drop their beloved stiff-armed gesture because many protested "That is our gesture. We did it first." Of course the robotic chanting on command daily in government schools (socialist schools) outlasted German socialism, even after the gesture was changed to hide the pledge's putrid past. The pledge remains the source of Nazi behavior to this day, including the persecution of children who refuse.