100 Years Ago In Windham
Benjamin N. Upham Drops Dead
“WINDHAM, March 13, 1917— Benjamin N. Upham, of Dorchester, Mass., who has a summer cottage on Cobbett’s Pond, in which he took great interest, dropped dead on the street near his home in the storm of Monday evening, the 5th. He had long been connected with the Youth’s Companion, having charge of the premium department. Which, was quite a specialty with this popular paper. For some years, Mr. Upham was a deacon in the Ruggles Street Baptist Church in Boston. He was a man whom it was good to know.” W.S. Harris
Benjamin Upham’s brother James, had a large role in the creation of the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Many patriots today, might be interested to know that, “The Pledge,” was written in 1892, by Francis Bellamy, a former Baptist minister, and an employee at the Youth’s Companion. (There has been a long running historical debate about who actually wrote “The Pledge,” with Upham’s family providing evidence that he actually did. However, today the authorship of the pledge is generally ascribed to Bellamy.) Both Bellamy and Upham were “Christian Socialists.” Before joining the Youth’s Companion, Francis “was forced out of his Boston church for his socialist sermons, including topics like ‘Jesus the Socialist’ and a series of sermons on ‘The Socialism of the Primitive Church.’ ” Edward Bellamy, was Francis Bellamy’s cousin and also a socialist, who wrote Looking Backward, a utopian novel set in the far distant year 2000. “Bellamy’s vision sees the social ills of society cured by making America into a regimented worker’s paradise where everyone has equal incomes, and men are drafted into the country’s industrial army at the age of 21, serving jobs assigned by the state. Bellamy used the term “Nationalism” rather than “Socialism” as the descriptor of his governmental vision. He made this calculated move, to prevent a negative impact on sales of his novel and to better influence political ideas. Bellamy’s book inspired a political movement of “Nationalists Clubs,” and Francis Bellamy, author of “The Pledge,” was a founding member in Boston. “The Pledge” would have been seen as an anathema to the founders of America, who felt that all of the rights of the government, only had legitimacy when they flowed from the rights of the individual, not the other way around.
So where does James Upham fit in the picture? It was his job to generate revenue through the sale of premiums at the Youth’s Companion. According to Wikipedia, “In 1891, Daniel Sharp Ford, the owner of the Youth’s Companion, hired Bellamy to work with Ford’s nephew James B. Upham in the magazine’s premium department. In 1888, the Youth’s Companion had begun a campaign to sell American flags to public schools as a premium to solicit subscriptions. For Upham and Bellamy, the flag promotion was more than merely a business move; under their influence, the Youth’s Companion became a fervent supporter of the schoolhouse flag movement, which aimed to place a flag above every school in the nation. Four years later, by 1892, the magazine had sold American flags to approximately 26,000 schools. By this time the market was slowing for flags, but was not yet saturated. In 1892, Upham had the idea of using the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus reaching the Americas to further bolster the schoolhouse flag movement.
The magazine called for a national Columbian Public School Celebration to coincide with the World’s Columbian Exposition. A flag salute was a part of the official program for the Columbus Day celebration to be held in schools all over America.”
“The Pledge was published in the September 8, 1892, issue of the magazine, and immediately put to use in the campaign. Bellamy went to speak to a national meeting of school superintendents to promote the celebration; the convention liked the idea and selected a committee of leading educators to implement the program, including the immediate past president of the National Education Association. Bellamy was selected as the chair. Having received the official blessing of educators, Bellamy’s committee now had the task of spreading the word across the nation and of designing an official program for schools to follow on the day of national celebration. He structured the program around a flag-raising ceremony and his pledge.”
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
“For years the Pledge was accompanied with the “Bellamy salute,” a gesture invented by The Youth Companion’s marketing man, James B. Upham. In Bellamy’s own recollection, upon reading the pledge for the first time, Upham had snapped his heels together, raised his arm at half mast, and enthusiastically roared his support.” Of course, with the similarity to the NAZI salute, American politicians opted to change the salute to the more politically correct, hand over the heart, in 1942.
Benjamin Upham’s cottage was located on the North Shore on land leased from William Harris. James Upham died in 1905, but his children visited the cottage. Both James Upham and Benjamin Upham worked in the premium department of the “Youth’s Companion.”