Friday, July 1, 2011

The Pledge of Allegiance: A History

Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Most of us have stood in an elementary school classroom, right hand over our hearts, staring at a flag and uttering these words before our school day started.

If, for various reasons, you did not participate in the Pledge of Allegiance as a child, you likely still know the words.

What you might not know is where the Pledge of Allegiance came from.  Where did it start?  Who wrote it?  How long have we been saying it? Did our founding fathers stand up and pledge allegiance to a flag?

The short answer is no, our founding fathers did not pledge allegiance to a flag.  The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy in 1892.  Bellamy wanted to do something special for the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival to America, and our nation's first ever celebration of Columbus Day, so he devised the Pledge of Allegiance for a popular children's magazine, Youth's Companion.

The original Pledge of Allegiance was wholly patriotic in nature and it read:

"I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

You'll notice the first ever Pledge of Allegiance is a little bit different from the one we say now. For Bellamy, the words to focus on were surely 'one nation, indivisible.'  Our nation had just come through a horrific Civil War and Bellamy wanted to emphasize the unity of our states.

It wasn't until 1924 that our Pledge of Allegiance was first altered.  A National Flag Conference held that year determined that the words 'my flag' should be replaced with the words 'to the flag of the United States of America."

It wasn't until 1954, after the Roman Catholic Knights of Columbus took up the fight to add the words 'under God' to the Pledge of Allegiance that the Pledge as we know it came to exist.  The senate also instituted changes to our currency at this time, including the words 'In God we Trust' on all American paper money.

Why did the senate of a famously secular nation decide to add seemingly religious subtext to our Pledge of Allegiance and even our money?  Well, the 1950s were during a period of U.S. History commonly referred to as The Red Scare. 

We were at odds with the USSR and many people feared a communist takeover of the United States.  The legislative act of 1954 that moved to add 'under God' to our Pledge of Allegiance explained that adding these words was to "acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government...upon the Creator...[and to] deny the atheistic and materialistic concept of Communism." 

As you can see, the new diction of the Pledge of Allegiance was intrinsically tied to a fear of Communist leanings.  The words 'under God' were added to signify that the United States was not a Communist nation and we were setting our country apart from Communist nations by emphasizing a belief in a Creator (though our senate was careful not to emphasize any particular religion over another and it should be noted that atheism was not as readily accepted or tolerated in the 1950s as it is today--though the level of toleration today could certainly be debated).

So on this Fourth of July, our great nation's Independence Day, you can stand proud as you say the Pledge of Allegiance and know that you know the history of those words as you utter them.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hey M/I Homes--I Love My "Money Pit"

I love hot showers, showers so hot they steam up the entire bathroom.  When I lived in a small apartment steam would fill the entire space with its smoky moist tendrils.  I blare the radio when I bathe and sing loudly (and off key) into my shampoo bottle/hair brush/balled up panties. I enjoy bath time.

Imagine my surprise when my steamy solace was interrupted by a commercial that made me want to run naked down the street to strangle the culprit behind such nonsense!  M/I homes, a local new home builder in Charlotte, paid for a radio ad that completely attacked historic homes.

Did I mention I live in a historic home?  Did I mention I serve on the Historic Preservation Commission?  Did I mention that I am Vice Chair of that Commission, or that I am a public historian who serves a Preservation Consultant?  Did I mention any of that?

I can't find a transcript of the commercial or I'd repeat it verbatim but the gist is--"old houses" are "money pits" that are "old," "dingy," and "broken."  While M/I Homes' new houses are "beautiful," "new," and "money saving."

Well let me tell you something M/I Homes:  I own a 111 year old bungalow complete with gleaming hardwood floors, ceramic tile bathrooms, and a terracotta hallway LAID BY HAND.  It has a built-in china cabinet, chair rails, bead-board ceilings, original wooden windows, hand carved moldings, window seats complete with benches, and a front porch deep enough to throw a freaking party on!  Did I mention my porch swing? 

What's that?  Your homes don't have any of those things?  Your artisans DON'T KNOW HOW to hand carve molding?  You can't find artisan quality terracotta from 1899? Well of course they don't.  Your houses are thrown up in a matter of days and I highly doubt they are built to last.  My "money pit" has withstood more than a century of wear and tear, more than a century of thunderstorms and hail, more than a century of the elements.  And it will withstand a hundred more--because it was built to last.

My "money pit" is energy efficient and my power bill is lower in my 1800 square foot house than it was in a 800 square foot "new" apartment.  My "money pit" has age old shade trees instead of stubby little saplings.  My "money pit" has a black walnut tree and a huge backyard.  My "money pit" isn't so close to the other houses on my street that I could spit out my window and hit the side of my neighbor's house.  My "money pit" doesn't look EXACTLY THE SAME as every other "money pit" in my TREE LINED neighborhood!

Oh yeah--and my "money pit" has character.  Something your cookie cutter monstrosities know not of.  My "money pit" is well insulated and has more windows than your "new" and "beautiful" homes which means I can take full advantage of natural light and my power bill is pretty darn cheap year round.  My "money pit" has more than a hundred years of history beneath its roof and it was built by the first man who ever owned it--he lived here for 86 years and he loved this "old" house.  He loved it and he treasured it, and now I love it and I treasure it.

So, M/I Homes, you can keep your "new" and "beautiful" cookie cutter houses for your sheep.  I'd choose a historic, well-built RESPLENDENT home any day of the week.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

I've been so busy over the past year that I have really been neglecting this blog!  I promise I will write a new post by tomorrow and henceforth I will try to write at least one post a week here.  I haven't forgotten about my fellow history buffs, and I apologize for my absence!

My blog won an award today!  Can you believe it?  I certainly didn't think that was going to happen. Thanks to L. Carroll for giving me this award:

Thanks L!  If you haven't checked out L's blog, then click here to see what she's all about.

The Stylish Blogger Award has some rules so here they are:
1. The awardee must thank the person who bestowed the honor.
2. The awardee must list 7 random facts about his or herself. See bullets at bottom
3. The awardee must pass the award on to 5 new blogging buddies. Um....I don't really have blogging buddies on this blog, but I'll pick some from my other blog :)  Winners listed under bullets.
4. The awardee must contact the winners to inform them they won.

Random facts about me:
  • I am currently in graduate school working on 2 separate M.A. degrees:  Religious Studies (Medieval Christian history) and History (Public History concentration).
  • I intend to pursue further graduate study when I wrap up my current degree programs--this time in maritime archaeology.
  • I am fascinated by pirates (Too cliche?  Maybe.).
  • I have presented papers at some pretty big and important academic conferences.
  • One day I want to write a work of creative non fiction.
  • When I'm completing research, my workspace looks like a library threw up.  Books are stacked in the floor, on the bed, on the chairs, on shelves, pretty much everywhere.  I also have random scraps of paper and several notebooks sprawled across the room and my laptop open to about seven different tabs (and Word).
  • I love the History International channel, but I'm not a big fan of the regular History channel
1. Rebekah:  Identity Crisis
2. Ginger:  Green Tea Ginger
3. Adrianne May:  On the Road Less Taken
4. Bettina:  Bettina's Wonderland
5. Jessica Lei:  Metahypnosis

Congratulations to the winners!  I wanted to draw attention to some blogs I think are great that many of you may not have ever read before.  So go ahead and take a peek at the winning blogs!