As we in the United States celebrate another July Fourth, our patriotism will be on display and many of us will again hear or speak the familiar line from our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As Americans, we have been blessed with a rich heritage that embraces these ideas of freedom and opportunity for all, ideals that were first worked out in the room pictured above (Independence Hall).

As our nation recently observed the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a day on which many Americans gave their lives for the cause of liberty, we had an opportunity to again reflect on the values for which our country stands. Just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the first issue of the comic book title, “Man of War”, was published. With a cover date of November, 1941, it included an offer for young readers to join the “Liberty Guards” (led by fictional characters Strut, Smokey, and Skip) by “pledging to preserve our freedom of speech, religion and press and to help guard our liberty”. The membership certificate read: “I hereby promise to be a good American – to do everything in my power to preserve our freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press and freedom of assembly – and to help guard our liberty.” A few weeks later, America entered the war and millions of young Americans were called upon to put their personal lives on hold, and at risk, for this purpose of guarding our liberty.

In the immediate post-War years, following all of the sacrifices made by the nation to win the war, millions of children were reminded via the creeds and codes of some of their favorite cowboy heroes of what kind of behavior makes one a good citizen and of the privilege to be an American. Here is a sample of the patriotic sentiments included in their codes.

  • Always respect our flag and our country. (Roy Rogers Riders Club Rules and Creed)
  • The Cowboy is a patriot. (Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code of Honor)
  • Children in many foreign lands are less fortunate than you. Be glad and proud you are an American. (Hopalong Cassidy’s Creed for American Boys and Girls)
  • I will respect my flag and my country. (The Wild Bill Hickok Deputy Marshal’s Code of Conduct)
  • I pledge…To be loyal to my Country and my Flag. (Bobby Benson Rider’s Pledge)
  • I believe… That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world; …That “this government, of the people, by the people, and for the people,” shall live always; I believe in my Creator, my country, my fellow man. (The Lone Ranger Creed)

In the new book, The John Wayne Code, Patrick Wayne said of his father, “What my father loved best about America was the opportunity. He’s the paradigm for the American Dream – available to everyone driven to succeed.” Ethan Wayne added that their dad appreciated the chance to be successful through hard work. The book includes some patriotic quotes from John Wayne, including: “I do think we have a pretty wonderful country, and I thank God that He chose me to live here;” and, “My hope and prayer is that everyone know and love our country for what she really is and what she stands for.”

Have a safe and happy Fourth!


John Wayne Code cover
Front cover of the new book from Media Lab Books.
Creeds, Codes and Cowboy Commandments
The B-western cowboy codes included themes of patriotism and good citizenship.

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