University of Rochester Library Bulletin: Francis Bellamy, '76

Volume VIII · Winter 1953 · Number 2
Francis Bellamy, '76

Mr. David Bellamy of Rochester has recently presented to the University Library a collection of the papers of his father, Francis Bellamy, '76, which makes a welcome addition to the University Archives. These neatly arranged and well documented papers relate specifically to the achievement for which Francis Bellamy is best known - the writing of the "Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag." A scrapbook made by Mr. Bellamy contains correspondence, programs, clippings, pamphlets, and other material which give a detailed account of the "National Public School Celebration of Columbus Day" of 1892, the occasion for which the pledge was written. There is a draft of the pledge, in the handwriting of Mr. Bellamy, written on the back of a piece of office stationery of The Youth's Companion, and there are numerous letters from public officials, including President Benjamin Harrison and many of the governors of the states, giving official sanction to the celebration. In addition to the scrapbook, there are two boxes of manuscripts relating to the later history of the pledge - its widespread adoption, the dispute over its authorship which was not settled until 1939, and its final official recognition by act of Congress in 1945. Two drafts of Mr. Bellamy's own account of the origin of the pledge are a part of the gift.

Francis Bellamy was born in Mount Morris on May 18, 1855, the son of a Baptist minister, David Bellamy. While still a very small child, his family removed to Rome, New York, where he lived for the next twelve or thirteen years. Entering the University of Rochester in 1872, he was graduated in 1876 and the following fall began his studies at the Rochester Theological Seminary. In December, 1879, he was ordained in the Baptist Church at Little Falls, where he remained as pastor for five years, devoting much of his time to work with laboring people. Five years later he was called to the pastorate of the Dearborn Street Baptist Church in Boston, where again he distinguished himself as a leader in the movement to utilize the church as a means of social and educational as well as religious service. The growing liberality of his views and their incompatibility with the more rigid Baptist theology of his time caused Bellamy eventually to feel it his duty to leave the ministry altogether. Accordingly, in the spring of 1891, he resigned his pastorate and entered the field of journalism.

For the next five years he was associated with The Youth's Companion as a member of its editorial staff. Leaving there in 1896, he became editor of The Illustrated American Magazine, and was later connected with the publishing house of Silver, Burdett and Company, and with Everybody's Magazine. In 1915 he entered the field of advertising, and in 1923 he retired and went to live in Tampa, Florida, where he died in 1931.

During the years of his work in the Dearborn Street Baptist Church in Boston, Mr. Bellamy was in close touch with Mr. Daniel S. Ford, whose very substantial support and sympathetic guidance contributed to the success of his pastorship. It was through his contact with Mr. Ford, owner and editor of The Youth's Companion, that Mr. Bellamy became a member of the staff of that widely circulated magazine when he left the ministry. He was placed as assistant to Mr. Ford's nephew, James Bailey Upham, who was at that time in charge of the premium department. Mr. Upham was a quiet, self-effacing man, but an enthusiastic supporter of patriotic causes. At the moment when Francis Bellamy was added to his staff, James B. Upham was actively engaged in a movement to supply every public school in the country with a flag and to familiarize every pupil in the country with a flag­raising ceremony. Out of this movement grew the idea of promoting a "simultaneous and appropriate celebration of the discovery of America in every public school in the United States in October, 1892." Fathered by James B. Upham, sponsored by The Youth's Companion,widely supported by political and educational organizations throughout the country, the idea took hold. A committee of state superintendents of public instruction set to work, and Francis Bellamy, representing The Youth's Companion, was made its chairman. How he secured a presidential proclamation from Benjamin Harrison, and the support of Grover Cleveland, presidential candidate, and other leading national figures, how he came to write the pledge as part of the ceremonies, is best told by Francis Bellamy himself, in the paper which follows.

Published anonymously in 1892 in The Youth's Companion of September 8, and on the official program for the celebration, the pledge was soon adopted widely as a part of flag-raising ceremonies at patriotic meetings, and was learned as a matter of course by every school child in the country. The wording has undergone some changes through the years. The word "to" was inserted before "the republic" almost immediately, to give better rhythm. In June, 1923, at the First National Flag Conference in Washington, the words "my flag" were changed to "the flag of the United States," and a year later to "the flag of the United States of America."

Controversy over the authorship of the pledge did not arise until some thirty years after it was written. Mr. Upham, who never by recorded word or deed claimed to be the author of the pledge, died in 1905. Tradition in his family, however, ascribed the authorship to him, and that impression was held also by some members of the staff of The Youth's Companion, who were contemporaries of Mr. Upham. While Mr. Bellamy occasionally privately acknowledged his part in the origin of the pledge, for many years he made no attempt to claim public recognition of its authorship. In 1923, distressed by statements made by the publishers ofThe Youth's Companion, and convinced by friends that the time had come to make known his share in the origin of the "twenty-three-word national creed," Mr. Bellamy wrote his own story of the events surrounding its birth. But the conflict between the Upham and Bellamy families over the real authorship of the pledge continued long after the death of both men. Finally both families agreed to submit proof of their claims to a committee appointed by the officers of the United States Flag Association, and in May, 1939, a decision was finally handed down by that group which was unanimously in favor of Francis Bellamy.

One final paragraph must be added to the story of the pledge. In 1942, legislation was adopted by Congress "to codify and emphasize existing customs pertaining to the display and use of the flag of the United States of America." The text of the pledge, as written by Mr. Bellamy and modified by the National Flag Conference in 1923 and 1924, was inserted in this legislation, but without designating it as the official pledge. Accordingly, in 1945, additional legislation was introduced into Congress by Representative Herman P. Eberharter of Pennsylvania, which amended the 1942 act in such a way as to give official congressional sanction to the pledge. It is interesting to note also that Mr. Bellamy's authorship of the pledge was recognized by statements published in the Congressional Record in 1945. The law as it now stands in Title 36, Section 172, of the United States Code reads thus:

The following is designated as the pledge of allegiance to the flag: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Such pledge should be rendered with the right hand over the heart. However, civilians will always show their respect to the flag when the pledge is given by merely standing at attention, men removing their headdress. Persons in uniform shall render the military salute.