There have been times in North Dakota when students in public schools regularly recited the “Pledge of Allegiance” as a patriotic classroom habit. With hands over hearts, young people saluted the “Star-Spangled Banner,” vowing loyalty to country and flag.
It was on this date, in 1892, that school children in the state spoke the allegiance for the first time, commemorating Columbus Day.
The pledge was written by Francis Bellamy and disseminated by a magazine called The Youth’s Companion. U.S. President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation in 1892 recommending the observance of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus finding the American continents. President Harrison instructed citizens nationwide to celebrate the day with “suitable exercises in the schools.”
Francis Bellamy, representing The Youth’s Companion magazine, provided every American school with an “Official Programme” for Columbus Day observances. The program included a short and concise “Salute to the Flag” – the first version of the Pledge of Allegiance.
In North Dakota, Jamestown’s school administrators, townspeople, and students followed the first steps of the “Official Programme” precisely. Local military veterans raised a new American flag over the high school, and as the flag reached the top of the staff, the Veterans led the assemblage in “Three Cheers for ‘Old Glory.’”
Immediately afterwards, the pupils pledged allegiance to the banner, following the instructions from the “Official Programme,” with every pupil giving the flag a military salute - right hand lifted, palm downward. Standing thusly, they cited the pledge: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”
Other towns in the state also included the new pledge on that Columbus Day. At Grand Forks’ Wilder Elementary School, it was reported that the students saluted the flag with the [quote] “very pretty pledge of allegiance.”
Similarly, students at Coal Harbor, north of Washburn, had raised money to buy a big flag, “twenty feet long,” and then flew it on Columbus Day, after reciting the “Salute to the Flag.”
As the years passed, the “Pledge of Allegiance” changed. In 1924, the words “the flag of the United States of America” replaced “my Flag.”
In 1942 the U.S. Government officially recognized the pledge. In 1954 Congress revised it to read: “one Nation, under God.”
Eventually, many North Dakota schools required a daily “Pledge.”
Today, reflecting changing times, citing the “Pledge” in classrooms is voluntary.
Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSUM History Department
“Numerous Programs Prepared for the Columbus Day Exercises (Friday,)” Grand Forks Herald, October 20, 1892, p. 3; “All Honor To Chris; Columbian Day Appropriately Observed at the Schools,” Grand Forks Herald, October 22, 1892, p. 3, 5.
“A Proclamation,” Bismarck Weekly Tribune, August 12, 1892, p. 4.
“Took Well Their Part,” Jamestown Weekly Alert, October 27, 1892, p. 5.
“National School Celebration of Columbus Day: The Official Programme,” The Youth’s Companion, September 8, 1892, p. 446.
“Columbus Day, Today in History,” American Memory, Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/october-12/, accessed September 16, 2019.
“15.1-19-03.1. Recitation of Prayer-Period of Silence-Pledge of Allegiance,” N.D. Century Code, https://www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/t15-1c19.pdf, accessed September 17, 2019.
“Bill Adds ‘Under God’ to U.S. Pledge,” Bismarck Tribune, June 15, 1954, p. 3.
“Coal Harbor, N.D.,” Washburn Leader, October 29, 1892, p. 1.
“Superintendent Ogden,” Bismarck Weekly Tribune, September 30, 1892, p. 4.
Melanie Kirkpatrick, “Bookshelf: One Nation, Indivisible,” Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2010, p. A17.
Coal Harbor was changed to Coleharbor in 1904, see Mary Ann Barnes Williams, North Dakota Place Names (Washburn, ND: Bismarck Tribune, 1966), p. 171-172.