Please click on the number in the black menu to get to the article.
A History of Halloween 10/27/2015
Veteran's Day 11/2/2015
Saint Patrick's Day - March 17th 3/15/2016
Beginning of the American Revolution 4/19/2016
A Mother's Day History 5/1/2018
Saint Nicholas 12/3/2019
The American Flag 1/9/2020
A History of Halloween 10/27/2015
This week on Halloween, millions of American families will carve pumpkins, and children will don costumes to go from house to house asking for candy. And, in many churches and communities, families will participate in solemn religious ceremonies, or will stay up playing games. The history of Halloween has its roots with the early days of Christianity, and possibly before.
Christian Origins Under the Roman Empire, early Christians faced great persecution for believing in Christ and for not following the Roman religion. Romans tortured and murdered Christians throughout the first three centuries. Then, in A.D. 313, Roman Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity, and in 380, Emperor Theodosius I declared Catholic Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. The persecution in the Roman Empire stopped, but Christians throughout the world still faced danger and death because of their belief.
Early Christians honored those who died for their faith and considered these martyrs saints. Churches were dedicated to a particular saint, or saints, and that dedication day, or consecration day, was celebrated each year. The Pantheon had been a Roman temple to all the gods, but in 609 Pope Boniface IV dedicated it to the saints and made May 13th a yearly celebration. Pope Gregory III (731-741) dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to all the saints on November 1st. Later, in 835, Pope Gregory IV added this celebration of All Saints Day to the Church calendar on November 1st for all Christians to celebrate.
The word Halloween comes from the celebration of All Saints Day (November 1st). From the very beginning of celebrating All Saints Day, Christians attended Holy Mass beginning the evening before November 1st. Thus, the celebration of Christmas begins on Christmas Eve. “Hallow” means “Holy” in Old English. All Hallow’s Eve (or Even) refers to the day before All Holy Day, or All Saints Day. Masses occurred one day before All Saint’s Day, in the evening. A blending of these three words (All Hallow’s Eve in Old English) gives us the word Halloween.
Pagan Influences or Origins? Celebrating or honoring the dead was common among pagan peoples of the world, as well as marking the transition from one season to another. Knowing what happened among pagan peoples however, is challenging, as many polytheistic peoples of Europe were also illiterate. There is a lack of primary sources.
Over 2,000 years ago, Celts lived in Central and Northwestern Europe. Celts were pagans, people who believed in many gods. They believed that they could communicate with good and evil spirits. The Celts celebrated a day in the fall as the New Year. The night before was remembered as the end of fall, the end of harvest, and the end of the season where there were more hours of sunshine than dark. Samhain was the night when Celts believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth, damaging farms, causing trouble and communicating with humans.
To honor the ghosts, Celts built huge bonfires, burned portions of their crops, and offered animal sacrifices. The Romans reported the Celts offered humans as sacrifices. The Druids were Celtic priests, in charge of the ceremonies. On the night of Samhain, Druids believed they could communicate with the dead, and told the fortunes of others. After the ceremony was finished, the Celts took fire from the bonfire and lit their hearth fires, believing their home would now be protected from evil spirits.
Also pagan, Romans celebrated the end of fall with a festival geared towards worshipping gods. The Roman Goddess of the harvest was Pomona, and her day was celebrated on November 1st. Pomona was also the goddess of love and fertility. It is believed that on November 1st, single Romans over a certain age were compelled to “marry” someone for a year. The Christian Church ended this practice of marriage for one year. Instead, on November 1st, Christian Romans would draw the names of saints to try to emulate or be inspired for the year.
Pope Gregory I and Converting Pagans In early medieval times, Church leaders and missionaries accomplished the enormous task of evangelizing pagan peoples throughout Europe and parts of Asia. One issue in changing pagan practices was how to deal with shrines that had been dedicated to various gods, and how to end pagan ceremonies. Some Christians argued the need to destroy the shrines. Pope Gregory I, however, argued that these pagan shrines be consecrated as Christian places of worship. In a letter sent in 601 to the missionaries to the Angles, Pope Gregory I writes, “For those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of God.” Pope Gregory I also writes, “For there is no doubt that it is impossible to cut off every thing at once from their rude natures; because he who endeavors to ascent to the highest place rises by degrees or steps, not by leaps.”
It is evident that the early Christians used natives’ buildings and local customs for the purpose of conversion. Regarding Halloween, we do not have a document from Christian leaders explaining that October 31st was chosen as All Hallow’s Eve because of the Celtic celebration of Samhain or because of the Roman holiday of Pomona. However, it appears that there is at least some tie between the pagan celebrations and the Christian holiday, but, it may never be completely clear to what extent these are connected.
Post-Reformation Europe After the Reformation in some countries of Europe, the celebration of Halloween was seen as Catholic and was outlawed. However, in Protestant England, the English celebrated their victory over Guy Fawkes. Guy Fawkes was a Catholic who tried to blow up the Protestant-sympathetic Parliament in 1605. He was caught and executed. On Guy Fawkes Day (November 5th) every year, the Protestant English would reenact Fawkes’ punishment by parading a scarecrow, the Pope in effigy, and other unpopular political figures, through the streets. Boys would dress up in costume and beg for coal to burn the scarecrows. Then, the scarecrows would be set on fire. Also, boys would play tricks on their neighbors.
Halloween in America In America, Halloween evolved over the last four hundred years and is still evolving. Originally, Halloween was outlawed in many Puritan colonies, but in these colonies many celebrated Guy Fawkes Day and became fascinated with witchcraft and evil spirits. In colonies with religious freedom, Catholics celebrated All Souls Day and All Saints Day.
The American Revolution brought forth a huge wave of religious toleration and civic participation, and Halloween started to evolve more into a secular community event instead of a religious one. Over the 18th and 19th centuries, Halloween became a time for parties, games for children, and matchmaking.
In the 1900s, American magazines promoted how to throw the best Halloween parties and large candy manufacturers promoted the idea of giving out candy to those who want to play tricks. As America became modernized and mass media reached all households, it appears that the current Halloween customs were strongly endorsed by candy makers as a way to make more money. Most recently, department stores create and promote Halloween decorations and Americans spend great amounts of time, energy, and resources decorating their homes.
Other Americans, however, still celebrate the Christian meaning of Halloween, by attending church, saying prayers, remembering the saints, and recalling the martyrs of the faith. These Christians are inspired to live as heroes for the Christian faith. Other church communities hold carnivals as a way to evangelize and to keep kids off the street from participating in Trick or Treating.
What was the early celebration of All Saint's Day?
How did the English celebrate "Guy Fawkes Day" in the 1600s?
About when in American history did the celebration of Halloween become more a community one and less of a religious one?
Veteran's Day 11/2/2015
On November 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m., fighting in World War I came to a halt. Seven months later, the Treaty of Versailles was signed that ended “The Great War,” also known as “The War to End All Wars.” One year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as “Armistice Day.” Armistice means the end of fighting.
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
On June 4, 1919, The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
Originally, Veterans Day was Armistice Day. In 1938, Congress declared that November 11 be set aside for prayer and thanksgiving for the end of World War I. However, after World War II and the Korean War, the U.S. Congress decided to change this day to Veterans Day, thus honoring veterans of all wars.
On October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veteran’s Day Proclamation, which stated: "In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible." In 1968, by an act of Congress, Veteran’s Day and three other holidays were moved to Mondays, so Americans could celebrate these days with a three day weekend. Many complained that this took away from the original purpose of the holidays. In 1975, President Ford signed into law to observe Veteran’s Day on November 11, where it is celebrated today.
A poem written by Canadian soldier John McCrae during World War I is often remembered by those studying World War I. Flanders is a town in the country of Belgium. Major John McCrae was a military doctor and artillery commander, and it is believed he wrote this poem after witnessing a friend killed in war and burying him.
by John McCrae, May 1915 In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
Questions 1. Read out loud the poem, twice. 2. What date is Veteran's day? 3. Why was this particular date chosen for Veteran's Day? 4. What treaty ended World War I? 5. What were the intentions of the U.S. Congress as to how November 11th would be commemorated? 6. When was Armistice Day changed to Veteran's Day? Why? 7. Why did President Ford sign into law to commemorate Veteran's Day on November 11th? 8. What did John McRae write in May 1915? 9. What does "The Dead" urge the living to do in the poem by John McRae? 10. Based on the poem, was John McRae urging others to continue fighting or stop fighting?
Other Tasks: 1. In your own words, write what John McRae's poem means. 2. Is this poem an anti-war poem, or is it an inspiring poem for soldiers to fight? 3. What words from the poem give you insight into what McRae was thinking? 4. Thank at least one veteran today.
Saint Patrick's Day - March 17th 3/15/2016
Patrick was born in fourth century Roman Britain (c. 390-461) to a loving family of wealth. His parents were most likely successful merchants and administrators of Rome. On February 27, 380, Roman Emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica and declared the official religion in the empire to be the Catholic Church. Patrick was brought up in this faith. He had a privileged childhood as the son of wealthy Roman leaders, but suffered great hardships for a number of years. Patrick brought Christianity to the Irish and changed the course of history.
At the beginning of the medieval ages, many in Europe clung to the pagan religions of the past. Ireland, the island to the west of Britain, was a land where Christianity was unknown. Celts in Ireland followed a belief called Druidism. They believed in many gods, and Druid priests had many practices that we would call barbaric. Druids sacrificed humans to keep their gods happy.
As a sixteen year-old, Patrick’s easy life of comfort and prestige changed forever. Some reports state Patrick had snuck out of his parents’ home and took part in an all-night pagan ritual. With dawn breaking, a small band of Irish pirates raided Britain and captured Patrick. He was taken to Ireland and sold into slavery, completely separated from his loving parents. Patrick wrote later that he had left the faith of his family, and for this he was being punished.
For six years, Patrick worked as a common slave in Ireland. At any instant, he could be killed, mutilated, or beaten by his owner. He was far from his home and far from any help his Christian friends could provide. Instead of becoming desperate and sad, though, Patrick spent his time in prayer and reflection. Working as a shepherd for six years, he grew to love the Irish land and people, and yearned to one day teach them the Christian belief. He united his sufferings as a slave to the sufferings of his savior, Christ, and his love for his captors grew.
According to Patrick’s writings, he heard the Heavenly Father speak to him and tell him to escape from slavery and to walk to the coast. A boat would be waiting for him. As a slave, if he were recognized, he would have been put to death! Patrick did as he was told, and there was a boat waiting for him. The captain agreed to take him back to Britain. Patrick’s parents were so excited to see him, but they were also disappointed to hear what he wanted to do. He wanted to become a priest and return to the people who enslaved him in Ireland. His parents wanted him to get married, become wealthy and important, and raise a family. If he returned to Ireland, wouldn’t he be killed by his former slave owner for escaping? How could he have a family if he became a priest?
Patience is a virtue Patrick practiced. He went to Gaul (France), studied to become a priest, and waited for his calling to go back to Ireland and spread Christianity. At the age of 49, after about 25 years of waiting, he finally received the order to go to Ireland as a bishop to evangelize. He returned, went to his former slave owner, and spoke about Christ. Amazingly, within Bishop Patrick’s lifetime, Ireland became a Christian country! And, since this time Irish missionaries have travelled throughout the world spreading the news of Jesus and his Church.
There are many legends attributed to Patrick in Ireland. For example, some say he chased all the snakes out of Ireland, or that he used a three-leaf clover to explain the Trinity. But, what is not legend is that within his lifetime, Ireland changed from a land of slavery, human sacrifice, and paganism, to a Christian land, where the slave trade came to a halt, and where murder and tribal warfare decreased.
Along with bringing Christianity to the Irish, Patrick established monasteries that some say saved Western civilization. In the Middle Ages, a monastery was a place where men lived and worshipped, served as doctors and nurses, fed the poor, took care of orphans, and copied important documents. It was the only place of learning in the first centuries after the Roman Empire fell. As Roman law and order gave way to chaos, Irish monks kept working, copying classic texts of the west, and spreading Christianity. For centuries after Patrick died, Irish monks spread both the Christian faith and the classics. It is for this that some historians claim that St. Patrick saved Western Civilization.
The Beginning of the American Revolution – April 19, 1775 April 19th, 2016 is the 243rd anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution. 243 years ago American farmers and militia fought the “British Regulars” (professional soldiers) at Concord and Lexington and chased the redcoats back to Boston. The fight is sometimes called a skirmish, because it was less than a battle. A little over a year after this fight, Americans declared their right to form a new country with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The first modern republic was born with the actions of regular citizens rejecting a government that ruled without its consent.
The skirmish at Lexington and Concord was fought because the British tried to stop the Americans from preparing for war. In 1774, American leaders at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia petitioned King George III and parliament to restore their rights. When the king and parliament refused and continued to hold the people of Boston under martial law, the Americans decided to mobilize for war. Colonists established illegal, revolutionary governments, collected taxes to fund militia and even funerals for soldiers, and established arsenals, which are warehouses for guns and ammunition. Americans were already well-armed, with each family owning several guns. However, men in villages now trained as soldiers. Some, called minutemen, were chosen and financially supported by town leaders to be prepared to fight within a minute’s notice.
General Gage, the commander of the British army in Boston, wanted to surprise the colonists. He ordered Major Pitcairn to march 1,000 soldiers 20 miles to Concord to destroy colonial ammunition and to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Gage did not want a fight, but wanted take weapons from Americans so they could not fight. However, Americans in Boston learned of this plan and destroyed the surprise. On the night of April 18th, 1775, a Bostonian set two lanterns in the belfry tower of the Old North Church, thus signaling three riders, Dr. Samuel Prescott, William Dawes and Paul Revere, that the British would go to Concord initially by a sea route.
The three riders set off from Boston to Concord, warning the colonists “The Regulars are coming! The Regulars are coming!” The “Regulars” were the professional British soldiers. The three successfully alerted the colonists to arm themselves and meet the British.
On the morning of April 19th, 1775, the American Revolution started. The British Regulars met American militia assembled in Lexington, a village along the road to Concord. When the Regulars met the Americans, it was dark. Major Pitcairn ordered the Americans to disperse. They just stood there. Then, inexplicably, a shot rang out and the fighting started. The British killed eight and the Americans scattered. The British continued their march to Concord. In Concord, the British found the weapons and destroyed them. However, the Americans managed to defeat a smaller group of the British at the Old North Bridge, and this victory energized the colonists.
The British were now twenty miles away from Boston, in the middle of hostile territory. For the rest of the day, the Regulars marched back to the city, drums beating, in formation, along a narrow road. During this march, Americans took aim at the soldiers, firing behind trees, stone walls, and fences, and then running away when any British soldier would chase them. By the end of the day, Americans had killed nearly 300 British and had lost 85 men. Though a small victory, it was seen as a great triumph of Americans over the strongest empire in the world.
When did the American Revolution start?
Why is it called a skirmish?
Who fought for the Americans?
Which side won?
What were the strengths and weaknesses of the British regulars, and the American fighters, during the skirmish at Concord and Lexington?
On May 13, 2018, Americans will honor their moms by bringing them flowers, taking them out to eat, and spending time visiting either by phone or in person. But when did this idea of celebrating mothers begin and how did it come to America?
Thousands of years ago, in ancient Greece and Rome, pagans held spring festivals honoring their mother goddesses. Rhea is the Greek mythological mother of the Olympian gods and goddesses and was worshipped as the goddess of fertility and the mountain wilds. In statutes, Rhea is depicted as a matronly woman, seated on a throne flanked by lions. An ancient Rome, Romans celebrated “Magna Mater” (Great Mother), however, these celebrations became so wild and notorious that the Roman government banned Magna Mater’s followers from Rome. What do mothers and wild parties have in common? Ask the ancient Romans. During the first centuries after the crucifixion of Christ, early Christians celebrated Mary as the mother of God, “Theotokos” in Greek and “Mater Dei” in Latin. By the 7th century, Christians around the world set aside January 1st as a special day to honor Mary.
In America, Mother’s Day was the brainstorm of Anna Jarvis in 1868. Jarvis wanted to establish a day where Americans would unite for peace and friendship. In 1868, she created a committee to establish “Mother’s Friendship Day,” a day set aside for former Civil War combatants and their families to reunite and form friendships. When Jarvis died, her daughter, also Anne Jarvis, took up the call. Anne Jarvis wanted a day to honor all moms and was upset that America’s holidays were too male dominated. Jarvis sponsored the first U.S. celebration of Mother’s Day at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, in the early 1900s. Anne Jarvis was so successful in promoting the holiday that in 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. President Wilson issued a proclamation that on the first Mother’s Day, Americans should show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.
Mother’s Day has become a major American and commercial holiday. It is the third largest holiday for sending cards. Americans take their mothers out for brunches or lunch on Mother’s Day, and it has become a source of great wealth for the card and restaurant industries. The founder of Mother’s Day, Anne Jarvis, decried the commercialization of the holiday she championed. In fact, in 1948, Jarvis was arrested for disturbing the peace during a protest against Mother’s Day. The Classical Historian family expresses great admiration and gratitude to all mothers. We see mothers as the teacher of culture, manners, standards, and morality. The author of this article is the 10th of 11 children. He’s glad his mom didn’t stop at number 9. Thanks Mom! The author’s wife is the mother of seven beautiful children. Thank you, Zdenka! The author’s mother-in-law bravely raised her children as a single mom. Thank you Maminka! And we wish all moms on May 13th, and on every day, a Happy Mother’s Day!
In honor of the United States federal holiday of Mother’s Day, all purchases from The Classical Historian are discounted 20% through May 13th, when you use the coupon code Mothersday.
Saint Nicholas Who was the Real Saint Nicholas, also known as St. Nick, Santa Claus? And...How is Saint Nicholas Remembered in the Czech Republic? 12/3/2019
It is late evening, somewhere in Central Europe, and three seemingly incongruent beings are roaming the cities, villages, and mountain towns of this small Slavic land. One is dressed as a bishop from the fourth century, complete with white robe, white beard and mustache, a shepherd’s staff, and mitre (bishop’s hat). Another is wearing horns, dark make-up, black clothes, and a red cape. He is jangling a long and heavy chain and has a black bag he keeps opening up in a threatening manner towards children. The third is an angel, wearing a white robe and wings. The “bishop” and “angel” are smiling gently. The bishop is carrying a bag of goodies to hand out to good kids, while the “devil” is laughing wickedly, jangling his chains, and looking for kids to put in his bag.
As the three visit homes and churches, children are brought to them. The bishop asks the children and parents if they had behaved well the previous year. Before the children can answer, the devil cackles loudly, menacingly jangles his chain, and says, “I know you’ve been a naughty child. You will come with me in my bag and I will take care of you forever.” At this moment, the child comes forth and sings a song, or recites a poem. Little “Jan” assures the bishop and devil that he has been a very good boy. The devil grimaces in pain, and says, “I thought for sure I would get this one.” The angel says, “I knew he was a good boy this year.” Little Jan sighs in relief, receives either a piece of fruit or candy, and the older kids and the parents laugh.
Every year, on the evening of December 5th in the Czech Republic, this play is acted out by thousands of bishops, angels, and devils and millions of families. The bishop, angel, and devil and parents are partners in teaching the children to be good in a way that reminds them of the ramifications of their behavior on Earth.
December 6th is the day set aside in the Roman Catholic Church to remember Saint Nicholas (Svaty Mikulas in Czech). Saint Nicholas was a fourth century bishop who lived on the Mediterranean Sea in the Roman Empire, in present-day Turkey. During Bishop Nicholas’ lifetime, stories abounded of his generosity and of miraculous events associated with him. One story is how a poor family that was considering to sell their daughters into slavery received golden apples by a mysterious person they believed to be Nicholas. Another story is how Nicholas appeared to distressed sailors on the ocean and calmed the seas. Bishop Nicholas was known by all to be incredibly generous to children. (In America, we call him “Santa Claus.”)
In the ninth century, Greek missionaries Cyril and Method converted the Slavic peoples to Christianity and created the various Slavic alphabets. Stories of Saint Nicholas’ generosity spread throughout the Slavic lands and throughout the Christian world. Sometime in the Medieval Ages, the tradition of the benevolent bishop and malevolent devil visiting families began. Originally, children were questioned on their knowledge of the Bible. Today, though, the kids get to escape the devil’s snares by reciting a poem or singing a song.
Nearly all Czech families participate in this tradition, which often takes place in the middle of St. Nicholas parties. Similar festivities on the eve or day of St. Nicholas take place throughout Europe and in some parts of the United States. In many places, it has become a secular holiday, including the Czech Republic. Since the Communist rule of this land from 1948-1989, most Czechs are professed atheists. However, they all still partake in the Svaty Mikulas festitivies, and it appears the children are strongly influenced by Bishop Nicholas, the angel and the devil to be good kids for at least one more year.
Questions: 1. What day are the Czechs celebrating on December 6th? 2. Why are they celebrating this person? 3. During which years did the Communists control Czechoslovakia? 4. Name one effect Communist rule most likely had on Czechs? 5. What do Americans call Saint Nicholas?
A Lesson in History: The American Flag
As U.S. citizens, we all are extremely familiar with the American flag. We see it flown outside of businesses and government buildings around the country. During grade school, we recited the “Pledge of Allegiance” with our hands placed dutifully over our hearts. During holidays such as Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and Flag Day, Americans will often fly Old Glory to show their patriotism.
While it’s an instantly recognizable as a symbol, how much do you know about the history of our flag? When did the first American flag appear? Do you know why the colors red, white, and blue were selected? Can you remember who was credited for the current design of our nation’s flag?
The answers to these questions are answered below, as we explore the history of the U.S. flag. Some of the facts you will surely remember from your school days, while other tidbits may surprise you.
The Beginning Flags are a big deal for nations. They not only stand as symbols of particular countries, but they solidify the existence of countries. This is especially true during times of war. Originally, when the first pilgrims set sail for America, they brought the English flag with them. However, once it became apparent that the settlement was going to become a country on its own, there were several changes made to the flag, most of which had strong British influences.
We’ll start in 1777, when the first official flag was adopted for the colonial forces. After having many different versions of flags, the Continental Congress met on June 14, 1777, to pass what is known as the Flag Act. While this did not contain any specific drawing or illustration of the proposed flag, the Act did state, “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing the new Constellation.”
As you can imagine, with just those words to describe what the official flag should look like, there were many first interpretations. While the first origins of the first design aren’t exactly known, many historians do believe that New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkins came up with the first design, while seamstress Betsy Ross sewed it. This first version had thirteen white stars that created a circle in a field of blue, with 13 alternating red and white stripes.
This worked for the original 13 colonies; however, as America grew and expanded, stars were added to represent each new state. So, between 1777 and 1960, Congress passed various different acts to change the design and shape of the flag to fit new stars accordingly.
Modern Day Today, the flag has 50 white stars in a field of blue to represent the 50 states of the Union, and 13 stripes, seven red and six white, for the original 13 colonies. This design was created by high school student Robert Heft, in 1958, for a class assignment. At the time there were only 48 states, as Alaska and Hawaii had not yet been added; however, Heft included them in his design. While his teacher only gave him a B-, supposedly for lack of originality, Heft’s creation caught the eye of President Eisenhower. The president picked Heft’s flag out of 1,500 submissions, as the two additional stars represented the two upcoming additions, Alaska (1959) and Hawaii (1960.) This flag is the one that is still used in the present day.
The Pledge of Allegiance We think it’s important to talk about the Pledge of Allegiance, as it is something that all American kids, from the time they enter kindergarten up until they complete high school, have to recite each morning. As with the flag, it is something that is so engrained in our culture, we hardly take the time to learn about its history.
In 1892, socialist minister Francis Bellany wrote the Pledge of Allegiance, and it was then published in “The Youth’s Companion” on September 8th of that same year. The original pledge was as follows: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Bellany wrote the pledge with the hope that citizens throughout the country would use it. He got his wish when, on October 12, 1892, during the very first nationally recognized Columbus Day (something Bellany also advocated for), grade school kids everywhere recited the “Pledge of Allegiance.”
Later, in 1923, the wording was slightly altered to include “of the United States of America” making the official pledge read: “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.”
The last revision took place in 1954 when President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” which was in response to Communist threats of that time. While Bellamy was a minister, his daughter objected to this change. However, it was added, and the final version, the one which is recited today reads: “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.”
With the original pledge, Bellamy wanted those students to recite it while facing the flag, giving a military salute – right hand lifted, palm face down. When the words “to my Flag” the right hand was to remain extended, but with the palm turned upward (instead of downward), where it was to remain until the pledge was finished.
However, as we know, today the procedure is a little different. In fact, Section 4 of the Flag Code states:
“The Pledge of Allegiance should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform, men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute."
"I absolutely LOVE the critical thinking aspects of the curriculum." Dina, California