Bellamy salute

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A group of U.S. schoolchildren pledging their allegiance to the flag, May 1942

The Bellamy salute is a palm-out salute described by Francis Bellamy, an American Christian socialist and the author of the American Pledge of Allegiance. It is the gesture that was originally used to accompany the pledge. During the period when it was used with the Pledge of Allegiance, it was sometimes known as the "flag salute". Both the Pledge of Allegiance and the Bellamy salute originated in 1892.


Senator Burton K. Wheeler, Charles Lindbergh and novelist Kathleen Norris attending an America First Committee rally, New York, 1941 (at right, mostly cropped out in this use, is also the pacifist minister and socialist Norman Thomas).

The inventor of the saluting gesture was James B. Upham, junior partner and editor of The Youth's Companion.[1] Bellamy recalled Upham, upon reading the pledge, came into the posture of the salute, snapped his heels together, and said "Now up there is the flag; I come to salute; as I say 'I pledge allegiance to my flag,' I stretch out my right hand and keep it raised while I say the stirring words that follow."[1]

The Bellamy salute is named for Francis Bellamy, a minister who, in 1892, wrote the American Pledge of Allegiance. A socialist and internationalist, he hoped that his original wording would be adopted by all nations (the words “of the United States of America” were added after “Flag” only in 1923; and “under God” was later added after “one nation,” during the Eisenhower administration, the better to ward off godless Communists). Bellamy also described the physical gesture to accompany the pledge-taking; hence the Bellamy salute.[2]

The Bellamy salute was first demonstrated on October 12, 1892 according to 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.[3]

Due to similarity with the Roman salute, the Bellamy salute became controversial. Both the Roman salute and Francis Bellamy may have been inspired by the same claimed Ancient Roman salutes. From 1939 until the attack on Pearl Harbor, supporters of intervening in WWII produced misleading propaganda involving photographs of the anti-interventionist Charles Lindbergh and other "isolationists" appearing to perform a Hitler salute, when they were actually performing the Bellamy salute. In his biography Lindbergh (1998), author A. Scott Berg explains that interventionist propagandists would photograph Lindbergh and other "isolationists" using the Bellamy salute from an angle that left out the American flag, so it would be indistinguishable from the Hitler salute to observers.


The Bellamy salute was officially replaced with the hand-over-heart salute when Congress, instituted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, amended the "Flag Code" on 22 June 1942 (Public Law 77-623; chapter 435). Little had changed in the code since the Flag Day 1923 Conference. The most notable change was the removal of the Bellamy salute.

On Flag Day, June 14, 1923, The American Legion and representatives of 68 other patriotic, fraternal, civic and military organizations met in Washington, DC for the purpose of drafting a code of flag etiquette. The 77th Congress adopted this codification of rules as public law on June 22, 1942. It is Title 4, United States Code Chapter 1.[4]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Miller, Margarette S. (1976). Twenty Three Words: A Biography of Francis Bellamy : Author of the Pledge of Allegiance. Natl Bellamy Award. ISBN 0686156269, 9780686156260. 
  2. Matt Seaton: When Is a Nazi Salute Not a Nazi Salute?, via New York Review of Books on July 25, 2020
  3. From The Youth’s Companion, 65 (1892): 446–447.
  4. 'Top Ten' American Flag Myths