History

Symbolism Run Amok: The Demise of the Bellamy Salute

Symbolism Run Amok: The Demise of the Bellamy Salute

With their right arms extended stiffly forward, angled upward with fingers straight, man, woman, and child reflexively spoke the familiar words in unison. While this scenario might easily be mistaken as coming straight out of a reviled chapter of European history, this particular description is not denoting a gesture of fascism, but a largely forgotten and benign expression of American patriotism: the Bellamy salute.

Sponsored Links

Bellamy Salute

In 1892, the American Civil War had been over a mere 27 years, and the acrimonious conflict was still fresh in the minds of a country still much divided in spirit and suffering from a failed Reconstruction which ended 15 years earlier. In a bid to promote patriotism throughout these United States, a Boston publication entitled Youth’s Companion built upon an earlier campaign to place an American flag in every school by publishing a pledge of allegiance to the American flag. The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy and published in Youth’s Companion on 8 Sep 1892. After its publication, Bellamy promoted the pledge at a national meeting of school superintendents, who enthusiastically created a committee with Bellamy as chair to incorporate the pledge into a nationwide patriotic program for the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America.

Following the widespread popularity of the Pledge of Allegiance, it was decided that some manner of salute would be preferable to the awkward postures adopted as young and old, male and female, recited the Pledge of Allegiance in gestures of patriotism at schools and social gatherings. The salute described above – right arm extended stiffly forward, angled upward with fingers straight—was created and published in the same magazine that first published the Pledge of Allegiance, Youth’s Companion, and the deliberate, respectful gesture was named the Bellamy salute, after Francis Bellamy. This gesture (and others like it) is often claimed to have been modeled off of a salute of the Ancient Romans, although this is disputed.

Sponsored links

The stiff-armed gesture known as the Bellamy salute was adopted with the same widespread enthusiasm as the Pledge of Allegiance, and for decades the two were synonymous with a common display of American patriotism. While the published Bellamy salute instructions called for a military salute (later replaced with having the hand over the heart) to be then extended with the palm facing to the sky, many found it less awkward to perform the salute with the palm facing to the ground. Then in the mid-1930s, fascist regimes in Italy and Germany adopted an almost identical, extended-armed salute as a show of fealty to their fascist leaders. The once-benign gesture of patriotism was quickly becoming synonymous with something far more sinister, and thus something needed to be done about the Bellamy salute.

Although the Bellamy salute had just been incorporated into Public Law 77-623; Chapter 435, better known as the National Flag Code, on 22 Jun 1942, the prominence of similar fascist salutes and the United States involvement in World War II led to the Bellamy salute’s timely demise when the law was amended on 22 Dec 1942.

Bottom Line

The Bellamy salute was created in 1892 to be used when reciting the American Pledge of Allegiance. After fascist regimes in Italy and Germany adopted a similar salute in the years leading up to World War II, Congress ultimately amended the National Flag Code to replace the Bellamy salute with the hand-over-heart gesture used today.

Sponsored links
View Comments (2)

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

History

Randal A. Burd Jr. is a freelance writer, educator, and poet from Missouri. He is also a Kentucky Colonel and a genealogy enthusiast.

More in History

  • 10 Highly Educated Rock Stars

    Today we look at a few of the most educated rock stars who broke the stereotype that rock musicians are uneducated or unintelligent. Sponsored links

  • Did Kissinger Call Military Men “Dumb Stupid Animals”?

    Today we look at the quote attributed to Henry Kissinger in which he allegedly stated that military men were “dumb, stupid animals.” Sponsored Links

  • Kennedy Quotes on Minute Men and the 2nd Amendment

    Today we look at two heavily-shared quotes attributed to President Kennedy related to “Minute Men” and the Second Amendment. Sponsored Links

  • Apple Co-Founder Sold His 10% Stock in 1976 for $800, Worth $59 Billion Today.

    In 1976, Apple co-founder Ronald Wayne sold his shares of the company – equaling 10% of Apple – for $800. Those shares today are worth about $59 billion. Sponsored links

  • A Fool’s Errand: Speculating on the Origin of April Fool’s Day

    The world is full of reasons to be serious. Poverty. Disease. Famine. War. When people have trouble choosing a good reason to be serious, they settle for one of their own. People argue over religion, over politics, over sports, and over nothing at all. And as this contentiousness has taken place throughout...

  • Should the U.S. Penny be Eliminated?

    In late 2011, a video trended on YouTube which re-addressed the question of whether or not the U.S. penny should be discontinued. While it wasn’t the first or the last time the topic has been addressed, it was an early viral social media video on a subject that seems to come up every year. Although...

  • Three Modern Science Experiments on Humans That Were Outrageously Unethical

    Here are three science experiments on humans in the 20th century that are now infamous for being outrageously unethical: The Stanford Prison Study, the Milgram experiment, and the Tuskegee syphilis study. These cases are widely studied by students of psychology when considering the ethics of scientific experimentation. Sponsored links

  • Did Bernie Sanders March in Selma with MLK?

    A photo allegedly shows a young Bernie Sanders participating in a march with Martin Luther King, Jr. in March 1965. Sponsored links

Celebrating the weird and fake since 2008.

Copyright © 2008-2016 Wafflesatnoon.com, Inc. Theme by MVP Themes, powered by Wordpress.