How It Is That What Now Seems Hyper-Patriotic Can, in Retrospect, Look like a Mockery of Patriotism

Mike Alewitz’s post “Bert the Turtle Meets Fear and Loathing on Campus” has made the following item seem especially apropos.

The item has appeared in somewhat different form on the site Futility Closet ( It is re-posted with the permission of Greg Ross, who maintains the site. You can have daily updates from the site delivered to your e-mail each morning.


When minister Francis Bellamy published the American Pledge of Allegiance in Youth’s Companion in 1892, his colleague James Upham devised a salute to go along with it, snapping the heels together and extending the right arm toward the flag.

The following passage is taken from Bellamy’s published instructions for the “National School Celebration of Columbus Day”: “At a signal from the Principal, the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute—right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, ‘I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.’ At the words, ‘to my Flag,’ the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side.”

This synchronized gesture worked fine until the 1920s, when the Italian fascists and then the German Nazis adopted similar salutes. Throughout the 1930s, there were mounting calls to change the salute accompanying the Pledge of Allegiance. But because groups such as the Daughters of the American Revolution objected to any and all proposed alternatives, it was only after Germany and Italy had declared war on the United States that the Congress changed the American salute to the hand-on-heart gesture.

Bellamy Salute 1

Bellamy Salute 2

Bellamy Salute 3

One side this last “fused” photo is of schoolchildren in America and the other side of schoolchildren in Nazi Germany.


My previous re-posts from Futility Closet have included:

“But Should It Count toward Promotion and Tenure”:

“Another Item of Ironic Scholarship from Futility Closet”:

“Odd Library Subject Headings”:

“Herein Lies Another Route to Madness”:

“How-To Books That Make One Wonder Why”:

“Higher Ed’s Version of the Great Imposter”:

“Dissertation Titles That Warrant a Double-Take”:

“A Significant Portion of Someone’s Life Was Devoted to Writing Each of These Books”:

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